The Horrifying Practice of Banning Women From Their Homes During Menstruation
My husband would probably prefer if I was banished to another part of the house for a few days each month as my hormones rage right before my period, but that’s because my inner-bitch is unleashed at def-con 5 so I really can’t blame him.
But sadly, unbelievably, in 2017 this practice actually exists for many women in Nepal – they are banished for at least 5 days each month to derelict huts when they begin to menstruate. And women who have just given birth are given the same treatment and forced into isolation with their new-born babies. These women are made to feel humiliated, lonely and scared and are subject to pneumonia and other illnesses, attack from wild animals, and rape and abuse from drunken men.
An ancient Hindu ritual, known as Chhaupadi is responsible for the belief that they are impure and contaminated and could cause crop failures, the death of livestock and even natural disasters such as floods and fires. They are forbidden from looking at the sun and they are not allowed to touch men, cattle or religious icons.
To make matters worse for them, they are only allowed a staple diet of rice, salt and dry food as it is further believed they will destroy dairy, fruit and vegetable products at that time of the month.
It was reported that this has led to the deaths of at least three young women. This week 18 year old Talasi Shahi was bitten twice by a venomous snake after being banished to one of these huts and forced to sleep on the floor.
By the time her family discovered her it was too late to make the three hour trip to the hospital for the necessary anti-venom and sadly, she died.
Late last year a 15 year old girl died from smoke inhalation after lighting a fire in one of these huts in order to stay warm. There have been other deaths related to this ritual but the large majority of them go unreported.
Despite this practice being declared illegal in 2005, women are still forced out of their homes every month.
Restless Development is fighting against the ritual to have it abolished. They have this to say: “This year, the project has reached to 3790 young people and sessions on Sexual Reproductive Health issues and menstruation has been delivered in 18 schools in Kailali, Dadeldhura and Kanchanpur districts.”
And it is vital that it is the youths that are educated to bring about the necessary changes as the beliefs are very difficult to eradicate in the older generations.
The international charity, WaterAid, formed to help people access safe water and hygiene also launched a project that is aimed at helping these women have a voice about this issue.
WaterAid chief executive Barbara Frost told The Independent: “The silence and stigma that surrounds menstruation impinges on girls’ everyday lives. Furthermore, when there are no safe, private toilets in schools, girls often skip school during their period, or drop out of school altogether once they reach adolescence. With nowhere hygienic to clean sanitary pads or wash, women and girls also risk infection.
“Being able to deal with periods in a hygienic and dignified way is crucial to women’s wellbeing. It helps women feel that they are able to play a full role in society, no matter what time of the month.”
Rabina, 17, told WaterAid while on her period she was not allowed inside a kitchen and not allowed to cook.
A woman named Sabrita told Al Jazeera a neighbour had to bring her slices of bread and slide it to her from a safe distance while she was in the menstruation hut.
“I have to sleep in the hut even during winter and rainy season,” she said.
“It’s very cramped inside, I bang my head and I can’t stretch my legs. I face difficulties and often I hear snakes slithering around.”
Legislation is currently pending in parliament that would criminalise this menstruation ritual, making it an offence worthy of imprisonment to force a woman to follow the practice.
You can make donations to Restless Development here.
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