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Menstruation: The Battle Against Social Stigma

Menstruation is a natural biological process of womanhood. It signifies power and beauty, as well as, the symbol of feminism and physical maturity.

When menstruation begins, most girls start to menstruate between ages 10 and 15 years. The median age is 12, but every girl has her own schedule.

Granting there’s no specific age for a girl to her period, there will be hints that the menstrual cycle will begin momentarily.

There are various standpoints regarding menstruation all around the world. However, many people still cannot understand the magnificence of natural phenomena.


Screengrab from Rupi Kaur Website

Rupi Kaur, a Canadian poet, and illustrator, recently posted a photo of herself in bed with a period stain on Instagram (an internet-based photo-sharing application that allows users to take photos and upload them to social media).

This photo of hers was censored (and was deleted twice) by the aforementioned social network – because it didn’t follow the site’s community standards. Incongruously, the photo was a fragment of an art project challenging the social stigma around periods.

The regressive standpoint of Instagram is one of the examples of how society looks down upon this natural phenomenon that happens to a woman.

Kaur and her supporters contested that Instagram consents women to share photos that are exceedingly sexual pictures but censoring an image of period stain, sent a message that women’s bodies are tolerable – of their bodies are desirable.


Dambara Upadhyay, aged 26, died alone in a tiny mud hut she was banished to, just meters from her in-laws as her family slept. Upadhyay’s death case was due to a cultural tradition called chhaupadi.

Chhaupadi is a social tradition related to “menstrual taboo” in the western part of Nepal for Hindu women, which prohibits them from participating in normal family activities during a menstruation period, as they are considered impure.

The women are kept out of the house and have to live in a cattle shed or a makeshift hut. This period of time lasts between ten and eleven days when an adolescent girl has her first period; thereafter, the duration is between four to seven days each month.

In spite of a ban being imposed by the Supreme Court on the chhaupadi tradition in 2004, it is a practice that is still heavily widespread in the mid and western regions of Nepal. But other destructive consequences of chhaupadi are far more widespread. The stigma created by chhaupadi discourages girls from attending school during menstruation, a factor exacerbated by the fact that many schools lack proper toilets to allow them to manage hygiene during the school day. Governments in Nepal and elsewhere should take the lead in debunking menstruation stigma.


A basic human function like menstruation should no longer be a justification for denying women and girls with disabilities their basic human rights.

It should no longer be a barrier to education, to independent reproductive choices and bodily integrity, or to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment. It should no longer inhibit women and girls with disabilities right to dignity.

Worldwide, grave human rights abuses can be avoided by providing adequate support to women and girls with disabilities during menstruation.

They should have the right to be, simply, women. Compromised educations due to menstruation don’t only affect adolescent girls; it impacts the whole community.

A woman’s future earnings grow with every extra year of primary education. When a girl receives education, she marries later, has fewer, healthier children, and is less likely to experience sexual violence.

It’s not just the girls and women who benefit. Wider society and national economies can profit from better menstruation management.

With every 1% increase in the proportion of women with secondary education, a country’s annual per capita income grows by 0.3%.

Closing the unemployment gap between adolescent girls and boys would result in an up to 1.2% increase in GDP in a year. Overall, education has a tremendous impact on girls’ health, safety, and livelihoods.


There are ways to effectively integrate solutions to address discrimination towards menstrual stigmas, taboos, and discrimination.

People can focus on health-related stigmas and taboos, and provide adequate provide education and appropriate knowledge towards certain matters.

This may also be applicable not just to girls and women, but increasingly for men and boys so that menstruation, and the options for managing it, are understood broadly across society.

The local government can also work with the non-government organizations, as well as private sectors, to provide menstrual health products so that local markets are created and sustained as demand rises.

They should also improve access to menstrual health-appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities, so that girl’s needs are met, especially in school.

This typically involves design solutions for facilities at schools and health clinics that promote access to and use of facilities that allow for menstrual hygiene management or that “nudge” behavior.

Examples include facilities that have the construction of separate rooms for changing, places to hang reusable menstrual pads after drying/washing, and access to water and soap for handwashing at or near a facility.


Periods are a big part of women’s lives. If you are uncomfortable, it’s time to get comfortable. Start making period jokes, and carry your tampon openly to the bathroom.

Engage in open discussions about something that affects so many of us, so frequently. Anyone who has a problem with that can deal with it. Full stop, period.

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by Teya Janelle


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