Despite a Supreme Court ban, the chaupadi pratha tradition of forcing women to live in isolated sheds during their menstrual periods is still prevalent in Mid- and Far-Western Nepal and among older generations in the capital. The government acknowledges it must do more to eliminate the discriminatory practice but resources to do so are minimal.
by Nima Kafle Reporter, Wednesday – August 17, 2011
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – Every month for the last 24 years Belu Damai, 40, from Bhairavsthan, a village in Nepal’s Far-Western region, spent her several days a month, during her menstrual cycle in a cowshed.
“Chaupadi pratha,” is a Hindu tradition that forbids women from touching anyone during menstruation for fear that it will anger the gods. Damai says her family forced her to live in the cowshed during her period. But the shed lacked insulation and was freezing during the winter.
After 24 years of enduring this ritual Damai froze to death one night last winter while adhering to this tradition. Her family found her dead body in the cowshed the next morning .
Six months later, Dibyashwori Joshi, an 18-year-old from Rithapatha, another village in the Far-Western region, died of a snake bite while adhering to the chaupadi pratha tradition in a shed outside her family’s home.
Like Damai and Joshi, hundreds of women in Nepal’s Far-Western and Mid-Western regions have lost their lives, have been the victims of sexual abuse and have missed school during menstruation because of the chaupadi tradition.
The chaupadi tradition was outlawed here in 2004 and declared a human rights violation by the Supreme Court. But the practice is still prevalent in Mid- and Far-Western Nepal as families believe that women will anger the gods and make men, children, crops and cattle impure if they touch them during menstruation. Women are, therefore, forced to live in sheds during their periods, which internatoinal health officials confirm offers many dangers. The tradition has also had a negative impact on education as thousands of girls are forced to miss school. In Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city, the tradition remains common among older generations while younger Nepalis here are abandoning the tradition. The Supreme Court declared chaupadi a human rights violation in 2004, but the government is still working on policies to ban it.