Nepal Enforces Ban on Menstrual Huts
Nepal’s government is enforcing a ban on forcing women and girls into menstrual huts after several deaths were reported. The government is threatening to forfeit state benefits and will even jail anyone continuing this practice.
The ban became law in 2005 but the practice has continued to take place in remote areas of the country. Known as a centuries old “chhaupadi” system, families view menstruating women and girls as impure and fear misfortune. They are sent away into animal sheds and are barred from touching religious idols, milk or cattle.
As of late, several deaths have been reported, including one where a 21 year-old woman lit and a fire to keep warm in her hut and suffocated. The deaths have led to a national outcry, with Parliament responding in the form of an investigation. The government is launching an awareness campaign in all 19 administrative districts to inform the public that this practice is illegal.
They are threatening families with a fine of 3,000 rupees, or $26, halting social security and old-age pension. The government is also looking to pull down the huts that house menstruating women and girls.
A recent study of 400 girls between the ages of 14 and 19 in mid-western Nepal province of Karnali found about 77% still practiced chhaupadi. Radha Paudel founded the Radha Paudel Foundation in 2016 to campaign for what she calls “dignified menstruation.” She herself ran away from home at the age of 14 in fear of being banned during her first period. She spoke to the trust.org about the illegal practice. “A sustained and integrated campaign to end the deep rooted misconception about menstruation and fear is necessary to end the practice.”
The Realist Woman’s take:
While it took the deaths of many girls and women to enforce this ban, I’m happy to know that the government of Nepal is taking action. Maybe it was unrealistic to think that a ban on a centuries old practice was going to see enforcement. But it took tragedy after tragedy and news of those tragedies for the government to step in a way they never have.
There are so many things happening here including, a lack of sexual education and understanding on menstruation, a lack of care and love for these women, by their families and pure sexism. Like many others around the world, this is not a culture that supports women and women’s health.
The woman quoted in the story, Radha Paudel, was correct. There is a deep rooted misconception about menstruation in this society and it will take a while to get this archaic practice from continuing. Nepal’s actions thus far is a start and brings hope for the next generation of women. This practice is degrading and shames women for existing. It needs to end.