Dispelling religious myths around menstruation in Pakistan

A short report

UNICEF Pakistan
MHM consultation with religious leaders in Pakistan
UNICEF Pakistan
12 July 2018

“Don’t take bath, don’t touch or drink cold water, don’t eat spicy foods”... these are just some of the many myths adolescent girls in many parts of Pakistan believe to be cultural and religious restrictions for women when on their period.

Along with the biological changes that girls face during puberty, their awareness of this process is often underpinned by their beliefs and values. Research has shown that reproductive health in Pakistan is influenced by cultural and religious values, mostly from the predominantly Islamic faith, and local traditions. Often these beliefs are misconceptions and myths resulting from the deliberate withholding of information about menstruation for girls prior to their first period, as a means of protecting their chastity. This in turn negatively impacts their physical and emotional health.

UNICEF, through its partner, Women Empowerment Group is working with religious leaders across the country to dispel these misconceptions and promote positive societal change on menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Negative societal norms are not part of Islam,” according to Dr. Raghaib Naeemi, a senior religious leader speaking during an MHM consultation workshop conducted in collaboration with Pakistan’s Punjab University’s, Gender Studies Department.

"Negative societal norms are not part of Islam."

The consultation was one of a series of events organised to provide insights into religious and medical perspectives on menstruation. Top Islamic scholars from different sects, including 45 prayer leaders and female students attended the consultation.

“Islam teaches physical and spiritual cleanliness”, added Dr. Raghaib Naeemi. “These sessions are required to unpack such an important societal topic which would help women live a normal and healthy life.”

Through this engagement, Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology has published review papers on the subject and written over a dozen articles on mainstream media. It has also created a platform for both male and female adolescents to openly and confidently seek clarity on religious perspectives on the topic, including during the launch of UNICEF’s MHM campaign ‘NoChutti’ where over 300 boys and girls participated and tens of thousands of others followed proceedings via social media.