FabAfriq Magazine

Menstrual Taboo: Stigmatization

Different cultures view menstruation differently. In the early 1980s nearly all girls in the USA believed that girls should not talk about menstruation with boys, and more than one-third of the girls did not believe that it was appropriate to discuss menstruation with their fathers.
In Africa, millions of girls do not attend school due to taboos and stigma related to menstruation. They do not have access to proper sanitary pads and instead they have to improvise with blankets, mattresses, newspapers rugs or feathers. -- But these items are also ineffective and humiliating, often resulting in bloodstained uniforms, leading to bullying from particularly male peers and other people of the society. It is important to highlight that not only cultures and mentalities are concerned in menstruation stigmatization; religions too such as Christianity and Islam are of great impact.

A lot of restrictions are imposed on menstruating women. In some cultures, other members of the community have to be protected from menstruating women. This is because menstrual blood is considered polluted. Men are not allowed to have sexual intercourse with their wives or partners because it is believed they might get infected with sexually transmitted diseases. No body eats the food of such a woman, and she is excluded from the community until her menstrual period gets to its end. This is the same case with some religions like Islam where sexual intercourse is prohibited between a man and a woman during her menstrual period.

 

Menstruation is also perceived as unclean or embarrassing. In Islam, a woman on her period is not allowed to pray, fast and carry out religious activities. This goes for Christianity where women were excluded from ministry. Nevertheless, some cultures celebrate the menstrual period of women. This is the case in India where the first menstruation of a girl represents a positive aspect in her life, symbol of maturity and reproduction. In the Hindi culture, a woman on her menstrual period is protected and taken care of as she becomes weak due to blood loss.

 

Menstruation has become like a curse not only to African women and girls, but also to entire societies on the continent. There are also cultural and social attitudes that render discussion of menstruation almost impossible especially between parents and their daughters. The stigmatization and exclusion of women in this situation lead to irreversible complications like severe health risks, and infections in girls' genitalia. A call for education and social awareness on this issue in African developing countries should be highly prescribed.  

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