Dignified Menstruation

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Menstruation is a natural process in which a girl or woman of reproductive age bleeds. A healthy menstrual cycle means the woman is capable of bearing a child. Though it is a natural process, society has kept some restrictions and discrimination against women depending on the community, geographical region, caste, and religion. Girls are taught that menstruation is impure, a state of shame, humiliation, and powerlessness. They are taught, and some follow through by watching their mothers, sisters, and menstruating individuals in their communities practice menstrual restrictions. Women are biassed on menstruation, giving the word “women’s issue” or "private ssue," and there is global silence due to stigma and shame. Due to the stigma, shame, and taboo around menstruation, there is also an adverse immediate and long-term impact on one’s mental, physical, emotional, and social health, including all forms of gender-based violence, rape, murder, sexual assault, death, and more.

The awareness and discussion around it are minimal. But when one discusses a healthy menstrual cycle, dignified menstrual practices are a big part of the discussion. For every manstruating individual, dignified menstruation is important. Dignified menstruation can be defined as the state of freedom from any form of menstrual discrimination. 

This includes menstruators being 

free from stigma, taboos, abuse, and violence associated with menstruation. 

Dignified menstruation ensures the right to freedom, education, food, health, mobility, housing, dignity, and access to menstrual hygiene products. It also advocates and promotes an environment where people get to live without discrimination, violence, biases, prejudices, humiliation, or exclusion, despite their caste, social status, and sexual orientation.

People still lack a clear awareness regarding what dignified menstruation is and what it entails, along with all the intricate correlations it holds with all aspects of society. There is also a lack of guidelines, laws, rules, and regulations that monitor and regulate dignified menstruation practices. The lack of knowledge and education on menstrual health, cultural beliefs around menstruation, and anxiety around blood stains have made this topic more crucial. Community members have to understand that menstruation is not only a women’s issue but a pride for everyone. Dignified menstruation practice is not just about women by birth but also about transmen and queer communities too. Thus, the preferred term is menstruators' and not ‘females’ or ‘women’.

Most kinds of sexual violence and domestic abuse based on gender are the results of a lack of education about dignified menstruation practices. The problem is not just the physical aspect of violence but also the verbal and mental abuse. Due to undignified practices, menstruating women are subjected to forced or induced menopause too. As many girls in rural areas are deprived of access to defined menstrual hygiene products, they are discouraged from going to school. On the other hand, because of societal taboos and girls being teased and shamed for having periods or period stains, girls prefer to skip school and stay at home. When it comes to menstrual hygiene, access to sanitary facilities and clean water is essential for women and girls. Only in this way can they regulate their menstruation with dignity and protect themselves against diseases and infections.

Dignified menstruation is not about keeping matters private, even if menstruators are suffering. Such matters need to be spoken about and discussed among families and friends, despite their gender or sex. Only when you give women the environment at home can they excel and feel confident in the outside world. 

Practicing dignified menstruation means breaking stereotypes and changing gender roles. It promotes equity and equality. When it comes to ensuring dignified menstruation, men need to be encouraged and supported endlessly.

A significant issue is the widespread denial of the fundamental right to dignified menstruation for many women and girls in Nepal. Exclusionary practices, stigma, and taboos rooted in traditional religious and cultural beliefs hinder their full participation in economic and social life, impacting education, employment, and overall well-being.

Hence, it is imperative to challenge conservative thinking, behaviour, and practices. Women can only be empowered when we unite and commit to eradicating social restrictions and discrimination rooted in conservative beliefs and taboos. These entrenched social norms have significantly hindered women's empowerment and progress. Recognising these harsh realities, the government of Nepal has designated it as "National Dignified Menstruation Day," emphasising the need for concerted efforts to bring about meaningful change and freedom in action.

 

CiST College

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