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Menstruation and culture

Menstruation from Cultural Perspectives

The menstrual cycle is a bane in many women's lives and those few days of bleeding are understood and managed in varied and interesting ways by cultures around the world.

But for those less educated or impoverished, it’s their most dreaded time of the month.  Without access to sanitary products, many girls are hidden in shame, forced to miss school and some become susceptible to infections. In places where women’s bodies are viewed with suspicion, damaging social stigmas and myths cast them away from the community, limiting their job options and social interactions, which inevitably takes an incalculable socioeconomic, physical and mental toll on their lives.

Examples of attitudes and practices:

Nepal
A recent news story told of a girl locked in a tiny room who died of suffocation. This is an example of ignorance and superstition that's thankfully becoming rare in this age of enlightenment.

Australia
Aboriginal Australians linked rebirth with the blood of the womb. Aboriginal men exercise ritual power through ceremonies in which they cut themselves to imitate women’s menstruation. In some tribes, men actually cut open their penises to reproduce the look of bleeding female genitalia.

Portugal
During the winter, most households in a small town in Portugal kill a pig and cure its meat for later use. There is a strict taboo against menstruating women. They are not allowed to help butcher the pig or even enter a house where a pig is being cured. It is believed that a menstruating woman has the power of the evil eye that she can ruin the meat by merely looking at it.

Ivory Coast
The Beng people of Africa’s Ivory Coast believe that menstrual blood is special because it carries in it a living being. Menstrual blood is said to be like a flower which must first emerge before the fruit (i.e., the baby) can be born.

Turkey
In a small Muslim village in Turkey, menstruation was believed to be punishment given to the women as punishment for Eve’s disobedience against Allah in Paradise. Turkish women are not allowed to enter the mosque, touch the Koran or join the community in fasting during Ramadan while they are menstruating. Also, a menstruating woman cannot join the Hajj to the holy city of Mecca. Thus most women make the journey after menopause.

Sinu Joseph throws light on the science
behind Ayurvedic cultural practices around
menstruation and why they are important for
menstrual health.

Native Tribes of North America
The Navajos hold a ceremony for girls who have their menstruation for the first time. Considered as the most important of their religious rites, it is supposed to make sex holy and fruitful. The girl is secluded and given instruction and afterwards, there is a great celebration in which the entire community is involved.

The Yurok menstrual rules say that menstruating women are isolated in a menstrual hut or in the back room of their house during their period. She is supposed to be very powerful during this time and should isolate herself so that she would not waste her energy on everyday matters and not be bothered by members of the opposite sex. All her energy should be focused on meditating on the purpose of her life and the gathering her spiritual energy.

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