Nepalese Women are Exiled to Menstrual Huts and Why You Should Care
If you had to sleep in a makeshift shed during your period, how would you feel? Fortunately, in many western countries this isn’t something women are forced to do, but in Nepal, even though this practice has been banned since 2005, many women are still forced to live in a menstruation hut while they’re menstruating or during childbirth. The banned practice is called “chhaupadi”. It is a centuries-old tradition in which Nepalese Hindu women are considered “impure” during their menstruation period and are banished from participating in normal everyday activities.
The Superstitions of Chhaupadi The menstruating women and young girls are prohibited from participating in many activities because of many long-held superstitions about menstruating women:
Menstruating Women Can’t Sleep in the House
Not allowed to stay in the house or even the grounds of the property, these women are forced to live in tiny sheds, which oftentimes offer very little protection, ventilation, or even sanitation.
Women Must Eat Restricted Diets
For up to ten days the women must survive off dry foods, salt and rice alone. This is because it is believed if a menstruating woman touches a tree it will no longer bear fruit. She is also not allowed to consume vegetables or fruits for fear that doing so will ruin the harvest. Likewise, if she touches livestock like a cow, it will no longer give any more milk. If she tries to consume any livestock products such as yogurt, cheese, eggs, butter, milk or even their meat she will forever anger the gods. Not only is she not allowed to touch certain plants and animals, but she is also not allowed to touch men. It is believed that the man will become ill if she does. Lastly, menstruating women are not even allowed to fetch water from a well for fear that the well will dry up.
Young Girls Must Not Attend School
Even Saraswati, the goddess of education, will become angry at a woman reading, writing or touching a book while menstruating. It is believed that if she breaks this rule she will have a shorter life. This prevents many school-aged girls from getting an education during their monthly menses.
The Dangers of Menstruation Huts
Menstruation huts can be a really dangerous place for women and girls on their period. They are isolated from the protection of their family and the huts themselves offer little to no protection. The women are susceptible to the elements because they are not allowed to even use a warm blanket when it is cold. Instead they sleep on small rugs on the floor made from burlap. Most of these sheds also have no plumbing. So for days the women can not bathe themselves as well.
Deaths as a Result of Menstruation Huts
The practice of chhaupadi has led to many deaths. Past reports have shown that women and girls were attacked and killed by wild animals, died of disease & illness, bitten by poisonous snakes, were raped or their newborn infants -- who stay with them for the duration -- died of pneumonia. Just recently in December of 2016 two young girls died of smoke inhalation. Chhaupadi affects all castes in Nepal. Even though the Supreme Court of Nepal banned the practice in 2005, according to a 2011 UN Report, 95% of women in the Accham district alone still followed it. This inhumane practice persists because there is currently no punishment for practicing it. Share this post if you agree this practice should be stopped for good.