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Menstruation: the dirty and scary blood

The lack of information about menstruation has been creating fear and even a feeling of dirtiness in Colombian women.

Woman holding a calendar with marked menstrual cycle days.

Woman holding a calendar with marked menstrual cycle days. / Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Ana María Betancourt

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Leer en español: Menstruación: sangre sucia y aterradora

The period has always been stigmatized in Colombian culture: it's an unmentionable topic, a silent complaint, something thought as dirty, and in some cases seen as an illness or an inability that women have for some days. In a study made by CENDEX (Development Projects Center of the Javeriana University) with UNICEF, it was found that 20% of Colombian girls think that their own menstruation is dirty.

Also, a lot of girls in Colombia don't even know what is happening in their bodies the first time they see blood in their underwear clothes; some of them get scared, and they keep thinking that there's something wrong with themselves for a long time.

The same CENDEX and UNICEF study says that 45% of Colombian women, even in their adulthood, do not know where does the menstruation blood comes from.

When the girls have their period they don't feel enough confidence with the women in their closest social circle (mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, cousins, etc.), so they keep it quiet.

“When I had my period for the first time I thought that I was going to die because I was losing blood in such an intimate part of my body. Nobody ever told me about this, and I suffered a lot until I learned about menstruation in my biology classes at school”, said Claudia, a woman from Bogota that is 42 years old.

“During hundreds of years, the menstrual cycle has generated contempt and aversion, as it was considered a sin symbol that strengthens the idea of women as the lowest being in a society dominated by men". Nowadays, even though the thought is not that radical, the belief is that "menstruation is a biological disadvantage that transforms a woman in an emotional, irrational and unstable employee that isn't trustworthy”, writes Miranda Gray, a writer that treats topics like menstrual cycle and spirituality.

Also read: Colombian Constitutional Court will decide on decriminalization of abortion soon

The ignorance about the menstrual cycle is not a situation that happened in the past generations, it keeps happening. “All I learned about my period was because of the book Girls stuff (Cosas de niñas) because my mom refused to talk about it when I had my period for the first time. Right now I'm using the menstrual cup and I can't tell her, because after all this time we still avoid the topic”, said Sara, a 19 years old Colombian student.  

However, if we get more aware of our cycle we can take advantage of every menstrual phase. As Miranda Gray says in her book, Red Moon, menstruation is what makes us be cyclic beings, when we are little girls we are linear, our bodies and emotions don't change at all but since the first menstruation we are synced with the moon cycle and in every phase of the menstrual cycle (menstruation, follicular, ovulation, and luteal phase) we are changing our mood, our bodies, our thoughts, and even our hopes, so every phase has its own goals.

In that way, discovering our menstrual cycle is a way of discovering ourselves and recognizing our needs.

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