Criminal Code ‘ineffective’ to end Chhaupadi practice

- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Jan 5, 2019-

Despite the Civil and Criminal Code banning the practice of Chhaupadi, many women, particularly in western Nepal, continue to be forced outside their homes during their periods. Local administration and governments take no effective measures to enforce the law and raise awareness on the issue.  

A preliminary report on the study of Chhaupadi practice in Dailekh and Accham districts by the National Human Rights Commission made public on Friday states that even the government officials and the people holding public positions practice Chhaupadi to date, which has discouraged the activists and the locals from banishing the practice themselves. Officials involved in the study said political leaders do not raise their voice against the continuity of the practice as they fear that they might lose their vote banks.

The clause 168 (3) of the criminal code has a provision that anyone compelling a woman to live in the shed will have to serve three months of jail term in addition to Rs 3,000 in fine. The penalty is even higher for those holding the public position. However, five months after the criminal code came into effect, the local police has yet to receive a single case against the offenders, the report states.

“Women and girls are reluctant to complain against their own family,” said Yubraj Subedi, a member of the study panel. He said at least 13 women from different parts of western Nepal have lost their lives while observing Chhaupadi since 2005, the year the Supreme Court issued a verdict against the evil practice. Among them, four were found dead in Dailekh and Accham, the districts where the study was conducted, in the last two years. They died of hypothermia and snakebite in their sheds, the report states.

The apex court on May 2, 2005 had ordered the ban of Chhaupadi and asked the government to formulate a law that criminalises the practice. Only in August 2017 did the government formulate the law that came into effect from August 18, 2018.

A member of the study team told the Post that the local police is reluctant to file cases against the practice due to a lack of public support. “The police will not be proactive without the cooperation from the society,” he said.

However, Mohna Ansari, member of the rights commission, said that although the older generation is adamant in their belief, the younger generation is gradually coming forward to bring about a change.

Published: 05-01-2019 08:27

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