Intersectional Perspective on Menstrual Practises in Nepal: Lessons from ‘Dignity Without Danger’ Research Project
This paper is based on research carried out between 2019 and 2021 under a British Academy-funded Global Challenge Research Fund project entitled ‘Dignity Without Danger’. This qualitative study included 160 interviews and 16 focus group discussions among different castes and ethnic groups – Brahmin, Chhetri, Dalits, Newar, Magars, Gurungs, Sherpa, Rai, Limbu, Tharu and Muslim minority. The research was conducted in 14 districts (Ilam, Solukhumbu, Dhanusa, Mahottari, Makawanpur, Lalitpur, Baglung, Kaski, Kapilvastu, Rolpa, Dailekh, Jumla, Kanchanpur and Achham) covering mountain, hill and tarai areas in all seven provinces in Nepal. The collaboration with the non-governmental organization partners helped to negotiate access to the study sites, observe the life and living of people and collect trustworthy information. By using multi-sited rapid ethnography, the research team was able to understand how various factors have contributed to forming and decreasing stigma and discrimination during menstruation. We found that with an intersectional perspective differences betwee cultures, religions, castes and ethnic groups, and regions emerged, presenting a complex and interrelated set of gendered knowledge, culturally framed rules and lifecycle related practises. While a single narrative does not sufficiently represent issues related to menstrual exclusion in Nepal the sum of this extensive research allows us to draw a fascinating overview. This paper emphasises the necessity for opening knowledge about menstruation to the entire community including elders, males and religious leaders as well as adolescents and young girls. Safe space, openness and a widened discourse helps to make practises safer, challenge and reduce stigma, misconceptions and harmful restrictions. Respecting differences in menstruation practises across intersectional divides is a first step to achieving menstrual dignity.
Keywords: change and continuity, dignified menstrual, generational change, menstrual taboo, traditional beliefs