Seeking extreme taboo woman

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NCBI Bookshelf. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan; Jennifer Rothchild and Priti Shrestha Piya. For the last few years, a steady stream of news stories has emerged from Nepal, detailing the segregation of menstruating women. This traditional practice of living in menstrual huts chaupadi —remains most widespread in Western rural areas but is also practiced in other parts of the country, despite the Nepali Supreme Court ban in and numerous physical, emotional, and mental dangers associated with chaupadi. Our research team of Nepali and American scholars collected the life histories of 84 women in Nepal over a period of 16 months starting in June of These women ranged in age from 17 to 61 years old.

The study area included the middle or hill areas of Nepal and the ethnic groups who reside primarily in the hill area, including high caste women and Dalit so-called untouchable women. We ground our analysis in the specific sociocultural context of Nepali women themselves and their particular lived experiences.

How might micro-level examples such as individual women in Nepal and their life stories illuminate social structures and macro-level social change? We assert that researching gender and reproductive health at the micro-level reveals important dynamics about gender formation, the perpetuation of power, and the resistance to gendered constructions, which then better equips us to understand and develop more effective ways to support women and adolescent girls to empower themselves and enhance their menstrual health and hygiene.

These findings can be placed in conversation with similar studies from other locations to find where the ideas converge and separate, and provide a more holistic view of menstrual practices and politics. Nepal is a multiethnic, multilingual, and multicultural country with a population of about 30 million. A majority of people are Hindu Amidst gender disparity and other discriminatory social norms, Nepali women and girls face a complex set of challenges related to puberty and sexuality. Early marriage, early sexual activity, and early childbearing are common, culturally entrenched practices.

Child marriage bride below 18 years of age is still prevalent in some parts of Nepal, although it is legally prohibited. In the context of Nepal, where the average age of menarche is Many Nepali women lack access to hygienic menstrual materials and disposal options, access to a private place to change menstrual cloths or p, and clean water to wash their hands, bodies, and if used reusable products. Women are left to manage their periods in ineffective, uncomfortable, and unhygienic ways, including using bark, leaves, and dirty rags WaterAid , The dearth of affordable hygienic products and facilities is often compounded by cultural attitudes that view menstruation as shameful or dirty.

As a result, many women and adolescent girls are excluded from fully participating in social and cultural life, including religious activities. Despite the great need, there have been very few studies on menstrual health and hygiene in Nepal. Our goal in this chapter is to illuminate ly overlooked dynamics within the social constructions of gender as they play out around menstruation among the understudied population of women living in Nepal. Drawing from these life history narratives, we argue that looking closely at the micro-level illuminates what is possible at the macro-level.

Specifically, who a woman is and who she identifies as and how she is identified by others is a complex web of the socially constructed concepts of womanhood, reproduction, and motherhood. The average age of menarche varied by age of the participants in this study.

On average, women above the age of 40 first menstruated when they were 15 years old or older, whereas women between the ages of 26 and 40 had their first period after the age of Younger participants first menstruated, on average, around 13 years old. Thus, younger women reported getting their periods sooner than their older counterparts see Fig. We found that most women were not well informed about mensturation at the time of their first period, leaving them scared, confused, and ashamed when they first saw blood.

After seeing the blood and checking my body properly for leeches and not finding them, I was then sure that I had my period. I was out and playing. For the women in our study, their shared experiences of menarche can best be characterized by a lack of preparation that exacerbated feelings of fear, shame, and discomfort. Rather than harness their initial curiosity about menstruation that might be cultivated into a healthy approach for this natural process, their experiences were often surprise, confusion, and isolation.

Most of the women in the study said they had not received any education on menstruation. Mother was away. I told a woman living in renting our house, and my sister scolded me. I cried terribly. My relatives used to tease. I used to feel scared and think how does it feel to have these kinds of experiences? I had it at 12 years. I cried a lot. Women also complained about the lack of information from their mothers.

But I knew during menstruation we are prohibited to touch certain things and should also be clean. I only knew behavioral term, but had no idea about biological aspect. It makes me laugh a lot now. I realized I should not go here and there roam around.

Some women narrators had greater access to information. They cited sources like friends, teachers, or health workers, who explained menstruation to them and told them not to feel anxious about it. Sometimes I felt bad but friends used to tell me that it was just the rule of nature. Conversely, for many women in our study, not having open and informative conversations about menstruation at an early age and not having emotional support from others directly affected how these women managed their menstruation. As we will discuss later in this chapter, the importance placed on segregation and isolation of menstruating women far outweighed the importance of healthy and proper menstrual health management MHM.

As a result, MHM was rarely discussed and remained largely unpracticed. In fact, most of these women above 40 years shared that there was no orientation on wearing anything. They would just let it the blood flow. There was even no practice of wearing a petticoat.

I used to wrap up only Fariya saree. I washed it. These women, as well as other older women in our study, said they eventually learned from others to use taalo , a piece of cloth such as old sarees or bed sheets to manage bleeding. Older women expressed a preference for using taalo. Younger women, especially from urban areas, with more income and more education, were more likely to use menstrual p than older and rural women.

Poor sanitation facilities and a lack of adequate water supply further exacerbate poor menstrual hygiene among women. Additionally, there is a dearth of menstrual products available and little to no disposal pits for soiled p in school facilities. Thus, during menstruation, many adolescent girls do not attend school WaterAid , In some districts, parents do not allow their daughters to go to school during menstruation; instead, parents insist daughters take rest at home.

All of these factors contribute to high rates of absenteeism for adolescent girls. The first time, it was 22 days that I was hidden secluded. Second time, it was for 11 days. Third time for seven. When the sir teacher entered in the class it started bleeding. So I ran from the class to house. The boys in the class were shameless and they used to tease the girls knowingly in such days.

Other women also reported facing embarrassing situations in school. These issues regarding managing menstruation at home and at school underscore the role of harmful norms in shaping MHM. Rather than understanding menstruation as a meaningful and positive step toward adulthood, most women in our study remembered battling shame and embarrassment during this adolescent phase of life. We found that strong beliefs about menstruating women as impure were present across all castes and ethnic groups in the lives of the women in our study, yet each caste and ethnic group maintained its own customs about recognizing and influencing MHM for women and girls.

Family members and communities perpetuated these sociocultural beliefs and taboos Fig. Touching anything while menstruating, left it polluted—too dirty for anyone else to use. A menstruating woman should be careful to not let even a drop of water fall from her mouth while drinking, as that drop could then pollute the ground. Women interviewees talked about how at the end of their menstruation, they were instructed to bathe, as well as wash the items utensils, clothes, bed sheets, towels, et cetera that they used separately from everyone else during the fourth day of their period. Women also shared how community members seemed intent on restricting the mobility of adolescent girls after menarche; the belief was that an adolescent girl should no longer roam around freely as she now could become pregnant.

If she goes, she may get pregnant and so on. After menstruating I used to think like that, now I must do marriage and search a good man to marry. As a mechanism of social control, family members instilled their daughters with shame and fear. While menstruation is a normal physiological process, Hindus consider women impure, untouchable, and undesirable during menstruation Ueda Dominant Hindu practices are based on the belief that when women menstruate, impure blood leaves the body, and the body becomes impure.

Societal pressures to maintain menstrual restrictions become even more potent when menstruating women internalize these beliefs and begin to practice self-exclusion. Menstrual problems such as abdominal pain and cramping are interpreted as punishment for not abiding by the restrictions.

And because the menstruating woman is removed from religious rites, it becomes easier for larger society to disregard menstruation as a natural process, and instead, blame the menstruating woman for any unfortunate events that might occur, for example, a family member becoming ill or a landslide that destroys a home. Almost all the high caste Hindu women in the study shared that the first reaction of the person mostly sisters, mothers, or female relatives who they told after seeing blood was to hide them from the male members of their immediate family.

In our Chhetri caste, a girl should not look the face of her brother while having her first period so I was taken to another place to hide. This practice of hiding often left the women feeling afraid, ashamed, guilty, and confused about the possibility of something terrible happening to their male family members if they did not comply with this practice.

I felt like crying. What is notable in these shared stories was how menstruation was framed as a concern for men or boys. This framing or reframing implies that menstruation becomes an area deserving of interest and focus only when it has a negative impact for males. To protect their male family members, menstruating women are hidden, that is, put into seclusion. This practice of seclusion is often more strictly observed among high caste Hindu women and typically means living away from their own home and keeping a distance from kitchens, prayer rooms, and temples.

One of the most extreme forms of menstrual seclusion practice in Nepal is chaupadi , which despite being first outlawed in , forces menstruating girls and women to live outside their homes in a chaupadi shed or animal shed for four to seven days. Chaupadi comes from the belief Hindu scriptures dictate secretions associated with menstruation and childbirth to be religiously impure, deeming women untouchable, and prohibiting menstruating women and girls from inhabiting public space, socializing with others, and sharing food and water sources Ranabhat et al.

Although beliefs and practices are gradually changing, even today, in many parts of the country, women and girls either are forced to spend three to four days outside of their homes, often in sheds, or in a separate room or area while they are menstruating.

Seeking extreme taboo woman

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