Once Upon a Month by Incognito

Menstruation: 10 countries with REVOLTING beliefs

May 2nd, 2016

Zoé's Diaries

Let me first tell you that after writing this article, I realized just how lucky we are in Canada when it comes to that time of the month. In addition to living in one of the only countries to stop taxing feminine hygiene products, a woman's period is perceived as something totally normal and natural, unlike many other places in the world… 

1 - Japan 

This problem has gotten a lot of media coverage for some months now: in Japan, women don't have the right to work as sushi chefs. As IF that isn't discrimination! According to men, women's periods would "falsify" the women's taste and for that reason, they cannot pursue this profession. 

2- Nepal

We had already talked about this on the blog, but the chaupadi tradition is still very much alive and well in Nepal, especially in the western part of the country. This tradition forces women to isolate themselves during their period because they're considered unclean. During this time, they are not allowed to go to school, touch men or even eat dairy products or meat for fear that they would contaminate the food.

3- Uganda

Not only in Uganda, but also in several other African countries, feminine hygiene products are much too expensive for young girls. To avoid bleeding in their clothes when they have their period, they use scraps of dirty fabric, old sheets of paper and plants. Since these items are not exactly very sanitary, many girls get infections and suffer from other health problems. Another problem related to a girl’s period: school absenteeism. In addition to the fact that girls don’t have access to adequate feminine protection to live “normally”, schools don’t often have separate bathrooms for girls and boys, which compromises girls’ sense of intimacy when they have their period.

4- United States

We think about this a little less, mind you, but in the U.S., that's right, for our neighbours just south of the border, it's often difficult for a woman in prison to have access to sanitary pads and tampons. Take Niantic Correctional Institute in Connecticut, for example: each cell - that houses two women - receives five pads PER WEEK. And the women can only change their protection ONCE A DAY! 

5- Iran 

Here’s a statistic disturbing but true... Apparently 48% of Iranian girls believe that menstruation is in fact an illness. This is a common belief because there's very little information on menstruation in this country. As a result, young girls don't know what's happening to them and how to live with it. Just think! Mothers can't even prepare their daughters for their period because they probably didn't have access themselves to information on hygiene and sexual health… it's so revolting!

6- Bolivia

Bolivian girls are encouraged not to throw out their used sanitary napkins in public garbage cans. They believe that their soiled protection could actually contaminate other garbage and even cause certain diseases, including cancer. Even though certain garbage cans are provided specifically for soiled feminine protection, girls have limited access to private restrooms. With the shame they feel towards their period, many girls keep their soiled protection in their schoolbag so they can actually dispose of them when they get home. Once again, the lack of access to information contributes to the spread of false information… :(

7- India

A little like in Nepal, according to many traditional Indian beliefs, a menstruating woman can contaminate food simply by touching it. Despite these beliefs, certain families celebrate daughter’s first period by organizing a party known as a “ Vyss ende kalyanam”. But let’s be clear: it’s really only to let families with sons that their daughters are ready to be married. In an attempt to blow some of these archaic beliefs out of the water, a group of young Indian entrepreneurs have launched the website Menstrupedia, created to educate young girls about menstruation, but using a humorous approach. You go girls!

8- Indonesia

Several rules affect Indonesian women when it's that time of the month. In Bali, for example, a woman can't enter the kitchen and tend to their everyday tasks when she has her period. She also has to sleep apart from her family and doesn't have the right to have sex with her husband. On the island of Sumba, women simply don't have the right to interact with men during their period. What's more, if men contract gonorrhea (STD), they truly believe it's because they were in contact with a menstruating women. The only solution for getting rid of it? Transmit it to another woman, because she will supposedly be able to "eliminate it" during her period. What the...!

9- Malawi

Since it is just so shameful, parents NEVER address the topic of menstruation voluntarily with their children. Young Malawian girls pick up very little information about menstruation from their aunts. They make their sanitary napkins themselves and don't have the right to talk to boys when they have their period.

10- Afghanistan

False beliefs teach young girls that if they wash their private parts during that time of the month, they'll become sterile. Since most women don't have access to feminine protection, the risk of infection is therefore way up there. :(

Fortunately, many organizations are trying to counter these problems, but what can we say? There's still a long way to go. 

Do you know any other traditions that reject a girl's period?

Sources used in writing this article:

Huffington Post: huff.to/1oJLQmW | Plan international: bit.ly/1Ry3YHp | The Wall Street Journal: on.wsj.com/1KYTKmX | Project Humanity: bit.ly/1T4iNYh | The Guardian: bit.ly/1BjnzK9 | Wash United: bit.ly/1RAMsoI | Afghan Zariza: bit.ly/1ncvfal | RTL.fr: bit.ly/24xjtJB | Wikipédia: bit.ly/1UuyW94 |New Internationalist: bit.ly/1S6xtAP

Join the Discussion!

About the author

 Zoé’s never at loss for words. Part fashionista, part foodie, she loves sharing her latest discoveries and funny stories.   Zoé had her first...