‘Menstruation means impurity’: multilevel interventions are needed to break the menstrual taboo in Nepal

Subash Thapa, Arja R. Aro

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Background: During their menstrual period, women are generally considered impure in Nepal; in the rural areas of the western part of the country, they are even banished to stay in sheds (called chhaupadi) during this time, which increases their vulnerability to a variety of health consequences. There is lack of clarity regarding the effectiveness of interventions that have been implemented to address menstrual taboo and improve menstrual hygiene and practices in Nepal (e.g., public awareness, community sensitization and legislation). In this paper, we discuss why menstruation management interventions, particularly those implemented to change the menstrual taboo might not work, and the opinions and experiences regarding the implementation of such interventions. Main text: Anecdotal reports from the field and empirical studies suggest that interventions to address menstrual taboos have only been effective for short durations of time due to several reasons. First, local community stakeholders have been reluctant to take actions to abandon retrogressive menstrual practices in rural areas. Second, women who have stopped practising chhaupadi have faced stigma (e.g., fear of exclusion) and discrimination (e.g., blaming, physical and verbal abuse). Third, contextual factors, such as poverty and illiteracy, limit the effectiveness of such interventions. Fourth, community sensitization activities against chhaupadi have faced resistance from community leaders and traditional healers. Fifth, the law prohibiting chhaupadi has also faced implementation problems, including poor filing of complaints. Conclusion: Multilevel, multisectoral interventions could be more effective than single-component interventions in breaking the prevailing menstrual taboo and in improving menstrual health and hygiene practices among young girls and women in the rural areas of Nepal. Moreover, interventions that have an active community mobilization component could be effective within local contexts and cultural groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article number84
JournalBMC Women's Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28. Feb 2021


  • Community mobilization
  • Menstrual health interventions
  • Menstrual stigma
  • Menstrual taboo
  • Menstruation management interventions
  • Multilevel interventions
  • Nepal
  • Women’s health


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