A Harmful Tradition Which Turns Girls And Women Into Untouchables / About “pureness” and believes

Today we want to touch a topic of delicate nature. A topic which needs to be addressed. If we like it or not, still these days in some places of Nepal girls and women when having their periods are treated as “dirty, “impure and “contaminating!?? This is the reason why often they are expelled from society and their families during the time of their menstruation.

You may ask yourself: “Why is that the case?” The answer is a mix of a few things: tradition, education, believe and religion.  Let´s talk about the tradition that is called `Chaupadi Pratha` (Untouchables, a tradition linked to Hinduism) a social tradition related to “menstrual taboo” which is predominantly practised in the western part of Nepal for Hindu women. It prohibits girls and women from participating in normal family activities during their menstruation period, as they are considered “impure”.

They are “kept” out of the house and have to live in a cattle shed or a makeshift hut. How long is question that comes into mind: It can last between ten and eleven days when an adolescent girl has her first period; thereafter, the duration is between four and seven days each month!! Childbirth also results in a ten to eleven-day confinement. And as considered “dirty” and “impure” they are not allowed to enter the house, the kitchen, the praying room, not allowed to attend school, do not have the permission to performing their daily functions like taking a bath, interact with society or attend school!

They are also forbidden from touching other people (especially male members of the family or neighbours) or cattle and from growing fruit and vegetables. It is also forbidden for them to consume milk, yogurt, butter, meat, and other nutritious foods, because of the fear that they will forever rot and spoil those goods. Women must survive on a diet of dry foods, salt and rice. The food is provided by the family and given in a distance far from her. Some families do not allow to eat anything but salted bread or rice as long as she is in arrest.  The most dangerous part of this tradition is that girls and women are forced to leave the house, to stay isolated all by themselves without any security and protection. Not to mention the hygienic and nutritional condition they need to bear up with.

And yes it was banned by law in 2005, but sadly it is still commonly practiced. Especially in the rural areas it’s difficult to break with these traditions, as they are so deep-seated in the mindset of society and justified by religion. In the mid and far western parts of Nepal, the seclusion is practised in its most extreme from. In some areas, menstruating women are literally banished to a shed while they bleed.

However, even so this system was outlawed by the supreme court of Nepal in 2005, it is still happening, because people believe that the period/menstruation is a private family issue. It is vital to take a look at the consequences of such a tradition and understand that is an act of violence against women – defined by the UN as follows-:  “are any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

We are determined to help create awareness and support change. Help us to make a difference.

(Madan Magar)

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