Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Girls & Women

Vaginal Bleeding Is Taboo in Poor Countries — And It's Putting Lives at Risk, Report Says

REUTERS/Himanshu Sharma.

By Lin Taylor

LONDON, July 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Taboos around vaginal bleeding in developing countries are putting the lives of women and girls at risk, and the lack of sanitation is making it worse, a report has found.

Menstruation is still taboo in many countries around the world, where it's often considered embarrassing or shameful.

Take Action: Break the Silence on Menstruation

In parts of Nepal, women practice "chaupadi", a tradition which cuts them off from the rest of society when they are menstruating. The custom obliges women to sleep in sheds or outbuildings while they have their period.

In India, menstruation is rarely discussed openly and this can leave girls and women ignorant about the issue and subject to social exclusion due to age-old social beliefs.

women in red sitting empty street aloneImage: Lyle Vincent/Flickr.

But there are other reasons why women experience vaginal bleeding, for example due to post-partum haemorrhages, miscarriages, endometriosis or cervical cancer, according to a report published in the BMJ British Medical Journal on Monday.

"Throughout the life course, girls and women experience numerous episodes of vaginal bleeding, many of which remain hidden due to misinformation, fear, embarrassment, shame and taboo," the report said.

Read More: Another Teen Girl in Nepal Dies During Stay in Menstruation Hut

Researchers said fostering open discussions would help women and girls differentiate between normal bleeding, like menstruation, and abnormal bleeding, which could be caused by sexually transmitted diseases or cancers.

"A first step is breaking the silence around the topic of vaginal bleeding, from the global to the local level, so that girls and women are able to seek out the healthcare and management required with confidence and support," the report said.

girls in school indiaImage: UK Department of International Development/Flickr.

Societal taboos as well as the lack of clean water, soap and sanitary products, mean that many women and girls are unable to manage their vaginal bleeding in sanitary conditions.

On any given day more than 800 million women between 15 and 49 have their period. However, globally 1.25 billion women do not have access to a toilet during menstruation, according to the charity WaterAid.

Read More: This African Feminist Was Jailed for Demanding Free Sanitary Pads for Girls

The United Nations estimates that due to a lack of facilities, one in 10 girls in Africa will miss school during their period and will eventually drop out of school as a result.

(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, global land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women's rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org/item/20170731223350-fyq0m/to see more stories)