Three days ago, Gita Khadka of Junichande Rural Municipality-4, Bista Tole was banished to a chhaugoth (menstrual hut) . She will be permitted to re-enter her house only after two more days. Despite being an educated person, Gita has no option other than sheltering in the menstrual hut like hundreds of other girls, and this is because of the fear of upsetting the deity.
It's not as if Gita is unaware that it is illegal to consign the menstruating to such sheds. But she has no choice. She does not dare to go against her family and the society. She laments that staying alone in the shed in the continuous monsoon rain is a horrible ordeal.
Hemantaa Khadka, a 12th grader at a local Tribhuvan Secondary School, has shared the same fate. She re-entered her home just a week ago after spending five days in the menstrual shed. "We know those huts are not safe for us. But still we can't help risking our lives once every month," Hemantaa said, adding," It is more troublesome during the monsoon as we are threatened by snakes, wild animals, the cold and the rain."
Hundreds of girls in this rural municipality are banished to the sheds during their periods. They are considered 'impure' and 'untouchable'. If they speak a word against this practice, they will be ostracized by the society. And the fear of angering the deity is such that even parents are ready to compromise the safety of their daughters.
It is a crime to mistreat women in the name of some deity, says civil society leader Rajendra Bikram Shah. The government has done its part by criminalizing the chhaupadi practice but it's the people who need to change their attitude.
Not just during menstruation but even at the time of pregnancy women have to go through terrible hardship, thanks to various kinds of superstitions.
According to Resham Bahadur Khadka, a local journalist, it has become compulsory for pregnant women to stay in sheds outside the house for 10 days during pregnancy due to the superstitious attitudes of the older generation and the blind faith of the new. He informed that pregnant women are shifted to the sheds immediately after they go into labor .
Shiva Acharya, vice-chairperson of the rural municipality, stressed that women should not be compelled to stay out in the sheds . In its last assembly, the rural municipality announced that it was to replace all the chhaupadi sheds with shrines. But Acharya says it's not possible to abolish this ill practice without the co-operation of various authorities.