Bhutanese Girls Believe Menstruation Is A 'Disease': Here Are Some Period Myths That Need To End
With so much 'bad blood' between Bhutanese girls and their monthly cycles, we’ve come up with some menstrual myth busters that need to end.
By Kinley Yangden | Bhutan Times
Various cultures around the world have long held the belief that a woman's menstruation is dirty and shameful.
In the US and UK, some people believe women shouldn't go camping because bears can smell it from far away. Over in Nepal, girls are banished into huts and are not allowed in homes or to have contact with anybody, while in nearby India, women are told that they should not enter a kitchen or cook food for people.
Here in Bhutan, more than 60 per cent of adolescent girls believe that they should not be entering a shrine or temple when they're menstruating, according to a recent study on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) of schoolgirls and nuns.
About 7.1 per cent of nuns state that menstruation was a "curse" and 33.2 per cent of them said women who are menstruating are likely to be possessed by evil spirits. Around 5.4 per cent of adolescent girls said it was a "disease".
The study, which was conducted by the education ministry and UNICEF, also found that more than 44.7 per cent of respondents skipped school from one to four days each month. This was due to "pain and discomfort", according to the study of 1,526 schoolgirls and 202 nuns.
Lack of sanitary pad disposal options and dirty toilets were other reasons for absenteeism.
Hygiene was also another pressing issue, as more than 40 per cent of nuns were not aware about infections due to poor menstrual hygiene.
With so much 'bad blood' between Bhutanese girls and their monthly cycles, we've come up with some menstrual myth busters that need to end.
1. Menstrual blood is 'dirty'
Many cultures believe that menstrual blood is 'bad' and 'dirty'. Scientifically, the fluid is actually a mixture of blood, older uterine tissue cells, and secretions from the vagina and cervix. There is more water and lesser iron, a composition that differs from blood. This does not make menstrual blood impure, it’s just different from regular blood.
2. Periods are 'shameful' and embarrassing
There is nothing shameful about a normal biological process that humans (and animals) have had since the beginning of time.
Certain taboos, folklore and superstitions are so ingrained in our culture that it's high time we should stop feeling shameful about something that is not just natural, but healthy too.
Some women believe that because menstruation is a shameful thing, they should not talk about it openly and it should be kept hidden. Some are even too shy to buy sanitary pads or dry undergarments in the sun.
Having your period is as natural as eating food, so unless you think ingesting food into your body is embarrassing, then talking about menstruation should not be seen as an embarrassment.
3. You shouldn't enter a temple
In the past, the lack of scientific knowledge led people to believe in many superstitions in myths. In today's world, a menstruating woman should no longer be considered "impure". However, old beliefs and stigma are sometimes hard to dispel and the Bhutan Nuns Foundation has been striving to break these taboos since 2011.
4. You shouldn't wash your hair when you're menstruating
Why should you change your regular grooming habits just because you're bleeding down there? There is no correlation between washing your hair while experiencing your menstrual cycle. In fact, a nice warm shower or bath can help you stay clean and may also help with your cramps too.
5. You shouldn't exercise when you have your period
Quite the opposite. In fact, some physical exercise may be beneficial while you're having your period as it helps to reduce cramps by releasing endorphins into the blood.
6. You cannot get pregnant when you have your period
Completely false. Sperm can live inside the uterus for three to five days. Ovulation can occur during or soon after the period, so there is a chance of getting pregnant.
7. It's a bad idea to have sex while menstruating
False. It may get a little messy but it is not unsafe or unhealthy, according to Maria Sophocles, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn and the medical director of Women's Healthcare of Princeton. The blood can also act as a natural lubricant.
Sharing accurate information helps to raise awareness of menstruation and breaks stigmatism and taboos, so go ahead and tell your friends and family about the debunked myths above that should have been put to an end long ago.
And just like what Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said in his campaign video: "Let's raise our sons well and not suppress our daughters."