Women head back to Chhaupadi sheds

Published On: June 25, 2018 04:10 AM NPT By: Nagendra Upadhyaya

SURKHET, June 25: Anita Sharma of Chaukune Rural Municipality-6, Bhabar is a 12th grader in a local school. She got married three years ago. Being a student, she is well aware that it's not right to stay in Chhaupadi sheds during periods. But still she is compelled to stay there for five days of menstruation due to the fear of 'angering' the gods.

"Five days in a menstrual hut feel like five years," said Anita, adding, "It's not possible to express the pain and fear of living in a congested hut set up in the open." There are altogether 53 households in Bhabar and a total of 90 women and girls from there menstruate. Currently, there are five Chhaupadi sheds in the village while others are under-construction. 

Women don't just suffer physically but also deal with mental pressure while living in sheds during their periods. "We feel quite unsafe while spending our night in the sheds. But still we have to do it because of family and social  pressure," said Anita.

In 2015, a total of 193 community and private Chhaupadi sheds of Guthu were demolished. In March of the same year, the Environment Improvement Committee in coordination with the Chhaupadi Abolition Committee declared Guthi 'Chhaupadi free'. As a result, menstruating women started staying home.  Three years after the declaration, women in Guthi have started giving continuity to the traditional ill practice again. They have once again started being treated as 'untouchables' and 'impure' during periods.

For one year, Pratikshya Bayak of Bhabar was allowed to stay home even during her periods. She was one of the participants in the campaign to demolish the Chhaupadi sheds. Surprisingly, these days she is found living in sheds during menstruation. "My family members prohibited me from entering the house during periods saying I angered the gods," laments Bayak.

Not just the illiterate ones but the also the so-called leaders and activists seem to be following this practice blindly.  "We know it's hard for women to stay in sheds as we ourselves have had those experiences in the past. But that does not mean we will allow them to anger the gods," said 62 years old Laxmidevi Upadhyay.

There are various misconceptions and taboos associated with menstruation which forbid women from boycotting this practice.  

Nirmala Rana, vice-chairperson of Chaukune, stated that eliminating Chhaupadi has been proved to be a major challenge for the local unit. Speaking at a function organized by the Social Improvement Organization and District Police Office at Bhabar on Saturday, Rana said that social taboos and stigmas have brought Chhaupadi back into practice. "It is not possible to abolish this deep-rooted practice just by demolishing the menstrual huts," Rana said, adding, "Creating awareness and changing the conservative mindset of the people is the first thing we should do."

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