Incident Reports

Outlawed Chhaupadi still in practice


Bagmati, Kathmandu, Kathmandu

Surja BK, 40, from Dadeldhura never wanted her two daughters to sleep out of the house during menstruation. She is completely against Chhaupadi, an ancient practice that banishes women from the home during menstruation. “I was forced to live in chhau goth during menstruation, fighting pain, hunger, and fear of being raped and bitten by snakes. I never wanted my daughters to experience it,” says BK, who experienced her first menstruation at the age of 13. She remembers being forced to live in the shed by her own mother. BK got married at the age of 14 and since then she was made to sleep in chhau goth at her husband’s home during menstruation. But BK is now a different woman, thanks to different organisations that are working to raise awareness of reproductive health. “My elder daughter is 22 years old and younger one 18 years old. However, I protected them from the ill-practice and they never had to sleep in chhau goth,” she added. Likewise, Devi Kanya Acharya, 35, from Heyakhola, Jumla, shared she got married at the age of 14. Soon after her marriage her mother-in-law passed away and a huge responsibility fell on her shoulders. “However, my father-in-law, who was a shaman, didn’t allow me to sleep in the house during menstruation. I spent eight days without food and begged to feed my two-year-old daughter. Chhaupadi was outlawed by the Supreme Court of Nepal in 2005, but the practice still continues in some remote places of western Nepal. In Bajura and Achham, Chhaupadi is still commonly practiced and 60 per cent girls in Achham and 17 per cent girls in Bajura are not allowed to sleep in the house during menstruation. “Chhaupadi is practiced not only in the rural areas but also in the cities,” said Aruna Upreti, Pa women’s health rights activist. The Criminal Code stipulates a three-month jail sentence or Rs 3,000 fine, or both, for anyone forcing a woman to follow the custom. “But people, especially women, have yet to change their mindset,” Upreti. The law does not bar women from sleeping in the chhau goth if they want to do so of their own volition. Joint Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Phanindra Gautam claimed that law did not prescribe any punishment for any woman who wanted to sleep in the chhau goth of their own volition.