JUMLA, March 10: The government's aggressive campaign against Chhaupadi, a tradition of keeping women in separate huts during their periods, has fallen weak in Karnali. The campaign that started over two months ago has fizzled out as families largely continued with the ill practice despite used awareness programs and forceful demolition of sheds.
The government had intensified its campaign against chhaupadi after the death of Parbati Budha Rawat, 21, and the subsequent arrest of her brother-in-law last December.
Issuing circulars to all local units, the government had directed the offices to strictly monitor Chhau practice and book the culprits. The locals, basically youths and police, jointly carried out awareness programs related to menstruation in every nook and corner of the villages.
However, weeks later, it has been reported that the programs were unable to trigger change in society. Many put the blame on the older generation, who refused to see their daughters and daughters-in-law at home when they bleed.
During interactions, women reported that their situation turned even pathetic due to the government's move to end the practice of Chhaupadi. On one hand, they no more had proper sheds due to the dismantling drive and on the other hand they were not allowed to stay inside home either.
Due to this, another slogan– dismantle the sheds in the minds first – was popularized. Now, neither police are seen keen to take action against those who practice chhaupadi, nor do the people take the right steps willingly. According to civil society leaders in Jumla, the fight against Chhaupadi has fizzled out.
"It was fierce in the beginning. Everyone had come together and had shown commitment. But now, the campaign has slowed down," said a civil society leader in Jumla, Raj Bahadur Mahat. "It is not a good sign," he added.
Campaigners had involved women, Dalits, media persons and even shamans for the campaign. In Jumla, CDO Durga Banjade had personally visited several villages telling people about the criminalization of the practice. Chhau culture was criminalized in 2017. She urged for people's cooperation against the ill culture that has taken dozens of lives. Many leaders and lawmakers made similar statements. And yet, they struggled to shake the deep-rooted culture. But in the meantime, hundreds of chhau sheds have already been dismantled.
"After the sheds were destroyed, women and girls were sent to live under the open sky," Mahat said. "There has been no new program since the last few weeks. The campaign is dead and now there is a danger of everything getting back to square one," he added.