National

Even right activists and teachers observe criminalised Chhaupadi in western Nepal

- BASANTA PRATAP SINGH, MENUKA DHUNGANA, ARJUN SHAH, BAJHANG/ACHHAM/DHANGADHI

Jan 11, 2019-

Although the government has already criminalised Chhaupadi, the practice of banishing women to secluded huts during their menstrual periods, many people’s representatives, right activists and teachers have been found following the barred practice in various parts of Achham, Bajura and Bajhang districts.

In 2005, the Supreme Court banned Chhaupadi. Then in August 2017, a new law came into force that criminalised the practice. However, despite all the efforts that have been put to end the practice, the superstition runs so deep in the mindsets of the people in the region that many women die in their Chhaupadi huts even to this day.

“I don’t want to hurt the feelings of my father-in-law and mother in-law. That’s why I stay in a Chhau shed during my periods,” said Nirmala Bista, a village council member of Thalara Rural Municipality in Bajhang. “My father-in-law and mother-in-law fall sick if I don’t practice the tradition,” adds Bista.

Like Bista, women representatives, who are regularly involved in organising public awareness campaigns to end malpractices, ironically also follow Chhaupadi in Bajhang. Sushila Khadka, a teacher, also a rights activist, in Bajhang, said she would not dare stay in her house during menstruation. “I am following the tradition to make my family members happy,” she said.

Paru Nagarchi, a ward member of Mangalsain Municipality-5, said she has been following the tradition for a long time. “My father-in-law and mother-in-law do not allow me to enter the house during my period,” she said. “Each month, I have to stay outdoors for five days, alone.”

Ratan Damai, a ward member of Jayagadh Rural Municipality-5 of Bannigadhi Jayagadh Rural Municipality, says, “It’s difficult to fight against our age-old tradition, which considers menstruating women ‘impure and untouchable’.”

This blind following of a banished age-old tradition can be found in Achham as well, even amidst educated women. In Mastamandu of Achham district, two female teachers of Mastamandu Basic School don’t go to school during their menstrual periods. Teacher Jhankar Bahadur Rawat said that they fear that Masto god, whose abode is a temple near the school, will get angry and punish them if they go to the school during menstruation. 

Pashupati Budha, another teacher at the school, said she cannot enter the school during her period because, “We fear that the god might get angry.” Along with the teachers, female students too do not attend their classes for seven days during their menstrual periods, she said.

Published: 11-01-2019 09:02

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