How are periods experienced in Asia?
We know it, we suspect it or we ignore it completely: menstruation is not experienced in the same way in different regions of the world. Between young girls who learn of their existence when having them for the first time and women who benefit from menstrual leave, there is a whole world! In this article, we will explore how menstruation is perceived and experienced in Japan and Nepal.
Having your period in Japan
Japan is one of the few countries to have implemented menstrual leave, in force since 1947. The authorities did not stop there: young women also had the right to more frequent gynecological examinations but also to daily gym classes in high school and college. The idea was to encourage the rise in the birth rate following the demographic fall of the Second World War by taking care of women so that they would be in better condition to give birth. The law is interesting, the initial intentions perhaps a little less laudable…
Even today, Japanese women can take a few days off each month during their period. But do they? Apparently, very few women take advantage of this right, for two reasons. On the one hand, many do not know of the existence of this leave or think that it is not applicable in their own company (yet it is indeed).
On the other hand, in Japan, gender equality is not yet achieved, particularly in the world of work. To show that they are as productive and efficient as men, women tend to ignore their periods and the various ailments that come with them .
Women's bleeding must therefore go unnoticed for this reason but also because culturally it is considered impure. Women are very uncomfortable with the idea of talking about it in front of men, and even of evoking this physiological phenomenon in general.
Periods are therefore very taboo in the land of the rising sun. Until the beginning of the 20th century, women even had to retreat to a secluded hut during their period. This Buddhist tradition belongs to the past in this country, but not in all…
Nepalese menstruation and the cult of isolation
In Nepal, religious traditions are still very important. One of them, the Chaupadi, obliges menstruating women to leave their homes for a week. They then go to a nearby barn or a cabin lost in the forest.
Declared illegal in 2005, Chaupadi is nevertheless still present in the villages of the western region of Nepal. Apart from the fact that isolation must be difficult for most women and especially very young girls, the main problem lies in the various risks to which they are exposed. It can be attacks by wild animals, illnesses due to the cold at night, but also rape...
In 2016, a woman died from poisoning herself with the smoke from the fire she had lit to keep herself warm. More recently, a young girl died from a snakebite. To make it difficult for them, mothers are sometimes forced to take their children with them, either because they are still breastfed or simply because there is no one else to look after them.
The situation is complex because if many women are forced to practice Chaupadi, many others respect this ritual to venerate their gods and protect their families. Will they agree to change their beliefs even if they are given the freedom to do so?