An ancient community custom known as chhaupadi still followed in several parts of Nepal believes in isolating menstruating women by exiling them to secluded huts, cow sheds and other remote areas in the village until their cycle for the month gets over, but Nepal Parliament has strongly opposed and even passed a bill to impose a penalty of 3,000 Nepalese rupees or imprisonment of three months or both for those who practice or force a woman to abide by these outlawed and inhumane customs.
Acknowledging the pain, discomfort and troubles women go through when subjected to this exile, the new law noted: “A woman during her menstruation or post-natal state should not be kept in chhaupadi or treated with any similar kind of discrimination or untouchable and inhuman behavior.”
The archaic custom had been put into practice with the view that women are “impure” and “contaminated” during their period and after childbirth and are hence prohibited from entering the kitchen, visiting a temple, touching or worshiping a religious idol, touching men or cattle, and even living in her home.
A decade has passed since this custom has run out of lawful recognition, however, many Nepali women are still being treated objectionably when they are banished to live in unhygienic conditions probably in a hut with primal facilities known as chhau goth, where they are vulnerable victims to wild animals, infections, bitter weather, et al.
A member of National Human Rights Commission was quoted as saying: “Supreme Court ruled against chhaupadi 12 years ago (that is, in 2005), but it was not effective because it issued just guidelines.” However, the SC decision also allowed a law to be passed against chhaupadi, should the guidelines become ineffective. The law has just been executed but its implementation will take about another year. So Nepalese women can finally breathe a sigh of relief from August 2018.
Though the lawmakers who drafted the bill and are a part of the committee enforcing this new law in Nepal believe that now since this precarious custom has been criminalized, people will be discouraged to violate the law as they fear punishment. But women parliamentarians of Nepal and women’s right activists strongly believe that awareness among both men and women is essential and women must take it upon themselves to understand why this “fallacy” exists in the first place, protest against forced exiles and eradicate the deep-rooted custom that stems from a well-embroiled patriarchal belief establishing the superiority of male gender.
Other malpractices of acid attacks, slavery and dowry system were also put to scrutiny as the bill came to be passed, reinforcing women laws in Nepal ever more stringently.
End of 2016 and again the previous month saw reported deaths of women who were exiled as a part of this custom. Many deaths, however go unreported and unnoticed.
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