Exploring The Diversity of Stigmas and Taboos Surrounding Menstruation – Preliminary Insights from The Field–Western and Eastern Nepal
Much media coverage and many NGOs focus on the traditional but now illegal Chhaupadi practice (seclusion in menstruation huts, unfit for human occupation), which deems menstruating women not only as ‘impure’, and polluting, but also banishes menstruating women temporarily from their home (Crawford et at 2014, PSI 2017, Standing and Parker 2018) Focusing on the practice of Chhaupadi however conceptually belittles the common challenges women face outside this extreme practice in the geographical region of Humla/Jumla (Parker & Standing 2019). Depending on religion, ethnicity, caste and geography; menstruating women and girls are variously prohibited from cooking, eating with family, looking in mirrors, visiting temples, going to school or work, farming activity and physical contact with men.
A key aim of this research is to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the complexities, practices and concepts that act as and barriers preventing change within communities. The research explores also solutions negotiated within the field of practice to enable women and girls to take up the right to have a dignified period, sexual and reproductive rights, and their human right to be free from discrimination (SDG 3,5).
In order to explore the width of cultural practices, detailed ethnographic research has been conducted over a 5 month period between Feb and June 2019 by 6 researchers working on two teams ‘West ‘ and ‘East’ who between them have visited all 7 provinces. By immersing themselves in the field and working with key partners on the ground, a rich set of data has been generated and co-analysed in order to identify the complexities of menstruation knowledge beliefs and practices in Nepal. This paper will reflect on the findings from the first two months of the project and provide the initial insights from the two research teams drawing out the similarities and differences between geographical regions and different ethnic groups within Nepal to establish key themes of further enquiries. This deeper understanding of the diverse menstrual practices and their underlying concepts will enable us to work with our partners to eventually support the development of more effective strategies to address stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation.