'Elderly people biggest hurdle to campaign against chhaupadi'
February 12, 2020 09:16 AM NPT
By: Jagat Khadka
A few young females dismantling chhau sheds in Jayprithvi Municipality, Bajhang, in this recent photo. Photo: Jagat Khadka
BAJHANG, Feb 12: After dismantling over 70 chhausheds (menstruation sheds) and yet not being able to quite make a difference in terms of discouraging the chhau culture, the local administration has 'realized' that the biggest obstruction is the elderly people. While police and some young locals have jointly been carrying out chhaushed-free campaigns for the last few weeks, senior family members have simply been found to have forced women and girls to continue to live in isolation during menstruation.
According to mayor of Jayprithivi Municipality, Birendra Bahadur Khadka, youths and middle-aged people can be convinced. They have even played active roles in getting rid of the chhaupadi practice. "However, the elderly family members don't even budge from their stance. Since they are very much uncomfortable about keeping women inside home during menstruation, others have to go their way," he said. "The aged people have solid faith in deities, superstitious beliefs cannot be changed that easily," he added.
Though Mayor Khadka claimed that the government is not just using batons against the chhaupadi culture but also moving ahead with impactful awareness campaigns, local women have expressed dissatisfaction over the act of destroying the chhau sheds without taking everyone in confidence. Due to the lack of support at home, women have rather been forced to live in even more vulnerable and pathetic conditions during menstruation, they lamented during an interaction held recently by the district administration office. In front of several stakeholders, women complained of the disturbed situation.
"My in-laws do not allow me to step into my home during my menstruation. Outside, we no more have the chhau shed as that has been destroyed. Where to go?" questioned Alakuli Jaisi of Jayprithivi Municipality. "Even though I want to be a part of change and stop following ill traditions, I am helpless," she added.
According to Jaisi, there are dozens of women in her area who understand the government move and would like to support it, but without taking elders of their families in confidence, it is not easy. "The first step of the government should have been only about raising awareness. Then only things would be easier for everyone," Jaisi stated and urged the administration to pay heed to women's problem.
Meanwhile, CDO of Bajhang, Umesh Pandey agreed that it is necessary to dismantle the 'chhau in people's mind' first. However, he defended that the administration is working hard on that.
"The chhau culture is a cruel form of violence against women. This should certainly be done away with and every effort is being made for that," said Pandey. "I have directed the people's representatives to work with that spirit," he added.
Under the campaign, local units have been carrying out their own programs against chhaudpadi. Chhaupadi is very deep-rooted in Talkot, Masta, Surma, Khaptadchanna, Thalara, Durgathali and Withadchir, among other villages and towns.
According to the district police chief, DSP Ganesh Bam, a total of 73 chhau sheds have been dismantled so far in Bajhang. Young people, mainly females have come forward to help the police in this campaign, he said.
"Maximum chhau sheds have been destroyed in Jayprithvi Municipality - 47 chhau were destroyed there alone," he said. "While elder people get angry with us, and even come for confrontations, the young ones are very supportive. Mainly young females are happy with this campaign," he added.
Mayor Khadka meanwhile stated that it may take five to six more years to make the country free of the chhau culture. It is not possible right now, he said.
"It takes time. In my view, it may take five to six more years. We should both educate people and show them the fear of the law," he said. "The administration has given us strict direction to bring this culture to an end, and we working relentlessly for that," he added.
As per the law, the chhau culture is illegal and those found guilty in connection to this attract both jail term and fine. Those who stay in chhau shed as well the family members who force them to do that are considered to have disobeyed the law.
The chhau culture is widely practiced in several districts in the western part including Achham, Bajhang and Bajura.