KATHMANDU, Dec 15: In the aftermath of the first menstrual death arrest in Achham, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has instructed all stakeholders concerned in the Chhaupadi practicing districts to enforce the criminal code that criminalizes Chhaupadi.
The instruction was issued after a meeting of government representatives from law and home ministries and Nepal Police. The meeting called by Attorney General Agni Prasad Kharel, who works as the chief legal advisor to the government, has decided to ask the Ministry of Home Affairs in writing to form a mechanism headed by the Chief District Officer (CDO) comprising chief of District Government Attorney Office and District Police Office to end social discrimination and inhuman behaviors as defined in the criminal code.
“It is decided to ask the Ministry of Home Affairs to form a mechanism headed by chief district officers and organize a nation-wide awareness campaign to end social discrimination and inhuman behaviors as mentioned in the criminal code,” reads a minute issued after the meeting.
Government attorneys and police in the districts have been told to conduct community-police collaboration programs in the presence of government attorneys for raising awareness against social evils.
They have also been instructed to conduct awareness programs in collaboration with the provincial governments and local units so that the general public could get updated about the legal provisions and punishment in case the law is implemented.
In the first week of December, Parbati Budha Rawat, a woman from Sanfe Bagar ward 3 of Accham, had died while following Chhaupadi. Police had reportedly refused to take up the case or arrest the family members of the deceased woman until AG Kharel asked Nepal Police Chief Sarbendra Khanal to arrest the family members and enforce the law.
The government has already criminalized the Chhauapdi, the tradition where women are banished from home at least for a week during their periods, in August 2018. But police were found reluctant to arrest the family members of the deceased woman's family for their alleged involvement in sending the woman to the menstrual shed in Achham despite the practice has been criminalized.
Police chief Khanal had to instruct the district police chief to arrest the brother-in-law of the deceased after the local police refused to take up the case and initiate investigation into the matter on charge of sending the women to the shed, going against the law. Following the instruction from the police chief, the district police had conducted a study on its own and the deceased woman's relative, brother-in-law Chhatra Rawat, was arrested on charge of sending the women to the shed.
Chhatra is still in police custody and the investigation into whether the accused was involved in sending the woman to the shed or not is still underway.
Locals in the district are still said to be mounting pressure on police to release the arrestee saying he has no role in sending the woman to the shed. They claim the woman had gone to the shed willingly as part of their culture to remain out of home during menstruation.