There was a time when girls would cover their faces with their palms when the teacher switched to topics related to sex.

Things haven't changed much as the youth of this generation are just as reluctant to discuss reproductive health and sex openly.

In a society where sex is still considered to be shameful, girls have no way to talk freely about their sexuality and sexual orientation.

Basic knowledge about the reproductive organs, sexual intercourse and menstruation cycle has been included in the school curriculum, but the persisting perceptions about sex prevent young people, especially girls, from freely exchanging their experiences and views on it.

In my school days, I noticed how a few of the girls had entered their menstruation cycle for the first time. Once during class, a boy tried to shame a girl because she had her period in the middle of a lesson, although he was well aware that every girl goes through that cycle. She raced out of the class, not being able to suppress the humiliation.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 18, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.

As a result, she didn't come to school for a month. Later, a serious meeting was held on this subject, and he was made to apologise to the girl.

It's common for girls in school to be embarrassed and feel uneasy when they have their period, especially if there are boys around. This becomes all the more intolerable when there is no separate bathroom for the girls or no bathroom at all in the school.

Boys must be taught at an early age that that menstruation is a natural process, which every girl goes through on reaching adolescence. All the teachers in the school should discuss this important dimension of human health.

The reason why I have particularly stressed on women in this article is that men are not as uncomfortable as women when it comes to discussing sexual matters. It is our patriarchal structure that has prevented women from learning about their body and sexual health.

Recently, I had done some research among the people of my age that included both the genders.

I prepared a questionnaire, and what I found left me totally awestruck. I had asked some questions related to sex, allowing them plenty of space to answer.

Most of the girls didn't answer my questions. Though I couldn't conclude the research on a solid note, I kind of came to the conclusion that Nepali girls are still hesitant to share their views and experiences on sexuality.

I'm not totally against the shy nature of women, but I feel we should hold free discussion on sexuality and reproductive health to stay healthy physically and mentally. What nature has given us should not be treated as taboos.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 18, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.