Updated: Oct 7
Menstrual myths and misconceptions have been deeply rooted in the Nepali culture and society since time immemorial. It is estimated that around 83% of Menstruating individuals (MIs) face some form of restriction or exclusion during our menstrual cycle. In Nepal, MIs are ostracized from basic activities like not being able to enter the kitchen or the temple; to facing extreme taboos like being kept outside in cowsheds (Chhaupadi). Another misconception we have is that menstruation is a woman’s issue; however, MIs include transgender men and non-binary individuals as well. Lack of awareness and ignorance has further amplified the stigma around menstruation. In a patriarchal society like Nepal, menstrual health remains a hushed topic, regardless of decades of awareness and advocacy programs. All these reasons negatively impact an MI's education, health and sanitation, dignity and social participation.
While these taboos play an adverse role in an MI’s life, the 13% VAT levied on period products hinder accessibility and affordability towards menstrual health management, turning a normal biological process into a luxury.The cultural shame attached to menstruation and a shortage of resources stop MIs from basic activities, social gatherings, going to school and working every day. Lack of awareness and access to menstrual products has also raised female absenteeism in the rural areas of Nepal.
Nepal has exempted VAT from medicines and medical supplies. Various forms of contraceptives, including condoms, are included in the national list of medicines in Nepal, that have been exempted from VAT. While it can be argued that family planning and safe-sex is very important in the context of Nepal, the same can be said for healthcare and hygiene, especially for menstruating individuals. Yet, menstrual products are not even considered as a medical supply. Poor menstrual hygiene can cause physical health risks and has been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections, and more severe diseases like cervical cancer.
Not treating menstrual products as essential items signals towards a much bigger issue in the Nepalese context. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing shortages and the lock down barring access from the free menstrual products provided by schools; an initiative by the GoN; feminine health and hygiene is threatened, especially in the rural areas. The GoN not realizing that period products are an essential item, especially during a pandemic, adversely affected MIs all over Nepal. Period poverty especially prevents low-income menstruators from bleeding with dignity. Due to the lack of employment during the lock down, many MIs were forced to use unhygienic means during their periods like rags, used banners, old pieces of clothes, and even leaves.
Lack of access to menstrual products is oftentimes a symptom as well a reason for gender disparity in our communities. It threatens a menstruating individual’s mobility, health and education; adversely impacting our empowerment and development. Meeting the hygiene needs of all MIs is a fundamental issue of human rights, dignity and public health. Promoting period equity is key to supporting menstruating individuals.
Pad2Go has been working for two years towards awareness and advocacy about menstrual health; affordability and accessibility towards menstrual products and services; and proper sanitation and hygiene in order to promote a holistic growth. Now, it is your turn to help us in our journey to lessen Period Poverty in Nepal. Help us sign the petition for VAT removal from period products in Nepal.
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Here is the link to the petition: