Bloody period

If you ask people what they know about menstruation in Nepal, the first answer will be the practice of chhaupadi, the menstruation exile. Most local and international media focus is banishment of women to the cow shed, even though the issue is much more complex, and there is a wealth of activity in Nepal to promote more dignified periods.

Activists are now challenging the media representation with visual images, photography, film and art. The Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management Alliance’s forthcoming MenstruAction on 11 December at the Kathmandu International Film Festival (KIMFF) will bring together film-makers and activists for a panel debate titled Breaking Code Red – A Conversation on Menstruation and How to See It.

For many Nepali girls, menstruation means not only blood and cramps but also forced seclusion and social ostracism once a month. These traditional and religious beliefs have even led to the death of some young girls who are forced to practice ritual segregation.

A new law in Nepal says that discrimination of young girls during their monthly period is illegal but how do the girls see the process? What are the fears and beliefs that force them to be a part of it? How do urbanites see it? What are the discussions around menstruation? The KIMFF sessions will explore this subject through photography, collaborative films, virtual reality, and a panel discussion.

Panelists include menstrual health and rights expert Pema Lhaki, transmedia artist Poulomi Basu, researcher/filmmaker Sara Baumann, photographer Uma Bista and Sara Parker. The session will be moderated by Diwas Raja KC of The Feminist Memory Project. The collaborative film Menstrual Practices and Displacement in Far-West Nepal, which is an initiative of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and the Nepal Fertility Care Center, will also be screened.

Read also: Blood sisters, Sangits Thebe Limbu

The photography and virtual reality exhibitions Blood Speaks by Poulomi Basu and I’m Pure by Uma Bista are presented in collaboration with Voices of Women Media. Sara Parker and Kay Standing of Liverpool John Moores University have been researching gender education and participation in Nepal over the past 25 years, and are currently working on a British Academy Global Challenges Research project with Tribhuvan University on the origins of menstrual beliefs and practices. They have been studying the impact of reusable sanitary pad kits. Called Dignity Without Danger, the project explores diverse range of beliefs, practices and historical and cultural roots which underpin menstrual health customs in all 7 provinces. 

The project is being launched at KIMFF whose theme this year is Women Move Mountains.  


Breaking Code Red

A Conversation on Menstruation and How to See It

Sunday 9 December 11:30 – 1:30 pm

Nepal Tourism Board