It’s hard to believe but in many countries, menstruation is still a taboo. A combination of tradition, misinformation and lack of educational facilities for girls especially in a male-dominant country resulted in such twisted ideologies to manifest and stay around after all this time. Let’s take a look at the struggles and taboos that women face in various countries.
Menstruation is generally a taboo, and some girls do not even know about it until they first get it. Women are not supposed to tell anybody about their period, including family members and especially men. They are banned from praying while menstruating as stated in the Quran, but some girls still participate in prayers in school to prevent letting their teachers and others know that they are menstruating. According to Menstrupedia, women in Afghanistan are also taught not to bathe or wash their genitals as it will make them infertile.
1 in 10 adolescent girls miss school regularly because schools do not have the facilities they need to change their sanitary products. There is little to no access to clean water, so these girls cannot clean up and discreetly dispose their used menstrual products.
Those lucky enough can go back to their homes to change their pads if they live near to their school, but even that is a hassle and not everybody live near their schools. These more unfortunate girls will miss school entirely when it’s their time of the month.
There are still others who do not have financial or physical access to sanitary products, and many of the poor have to improvise by using scraps of mattresses, rags and leaves as pads, which are not only uncomfortable and lead to leakage, it is also unhygienic and may cause infections.
A menstruating woman is not allowed in the kitchen, nor is she allowed to have sex with her husband. She is also not allowed to sleep together with her family and must keep her clothes worn while menstruating away from other clothes that are to be worn to the temple. And because menstruation is seen to be impure, she is not allowed to go to the temple either.
Women are not allowed to be sushi chefs, because having menstruation causes imbalance.
How does that affect women becoming sushi chefs?
The reason is because women menstruate. To be a professional means to have a steady taste in your food, but because of the menstrual cycle women have an imbalance in their taste, and that’s why women can’t be sushi chefs. – Ono Jiro, a sushi master who owns a three-star Michelinrestaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza district.
In certain parts of Nepal, menstruating women who live among communities that practice Chhaupadi are banished to dark rooms, often their home’s cowsheds.
According to The Guardian, Chhaupadi dictates what a woman can eat, where she can sleep, with whom she can interact, where she can go, and whom she can touch while she is menstruating.
This is because a menstruating woman is seen to be ‘impure’ when she is on her period, and any woman who defies the practices and rules are believed to bring death and destruction to her family.
6. North Korea
In North Korea, menstruation is taboo and not a valid reason for missing mass labour mobilisation demands or mass drills. They also cannot use this reason to receive lighter workloads. If they do use menstruation as a reason, they are criticised for faking an illness, and sometimes publicly shamed by officials shouting out, “Are you proud to be on your period?”
Women are taught to wash their menstrual cloths, dry and prepare them at night and early in the day where less people will see them. When in public, they must change their cloths in public toilets and keep the soiled cloths hidden in a bag until they can wash them at night.
7. Sumba, Indonesia
In Sumba, menstruation is a strict secret. This has earned women the title of being deceptive, and because of this they are seen to be controlling of men.
It is believed that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a result of having sex with a menstruating woman, so a menstruating woman is strictly banned from having intercourse. There is also a belief that if a man has an STD, the only way to get rid of it is to have sex with a woman, whose bodies are supposedly able to ‘absorb’ the infection and then purge it out when she gets her period.
In Jewish tradition, mothers slap their daughters faces when they first get their period. Their cheeks turning red from the slap is a sign of beauty and responsibility now that they are a woman. It also means they are ready to marry and bear a child, so some mothers tell their daughters to keep it a secret so that they will not have to get married so young.
You wouldn’t think that a first world country like Japan has a menstrual taboo, would you? Unfortunately, menstruation topics are still not easy to talk about yet in most countries and women are still denied of certain things just by being a menstruating female.