A chhaugoth (a hut for menstruating women) at the house of Bedraj Bhandari, ward member of Panchpuri Municipality-10 in Surkhet dsitrict. Although elected representatives and office bearers of local units of the district have been urging the locals to destroy chhaugoths, they have not been able to convince their own family members to do so. Photo: Nagendra Upadhya/Republica
SURKHET, Jan 13: Top Bahadur Bayak is an office bearer of Chaukune Rural Municipality-6, Bhabar in Surkhet district. A person of his post should set an example for others. Sadly, Bayak himself encourages an ill practice which has already been criminalized by the law. The women of his house are still forced to live in chhaugoths (a hut for menstruating women) during the five days of their periods.
It is not that he is unaware about the government’s announcement to cut the pay and benefits of people’s representatives and office bearers of local units who still have menstrual huts at their homes.
“My father is a Shaman. He fears that god will be furious if we allow a menstruating woman inside our home,” said Bayak, adding, “I personally don’t believe in this tradition but it is very difficult to convince other members of my family.”
Similarly, Bedraj Bhandari is an elected member of Panchpuri Municipality-10. He should be the one to campaign against the ill tradition of Chhaupadi. But, he too has a menstrual hut at his home.
Immediately after the formation of the local government, the municipality conducted several awareness programs to abolish Chhaupadi.
“There were times when I had urged others to demolish their chhaugoths. But I have not been able to convince my own family members to do so.”
In 2014, the then village development committees including Tatapani, Babiyachaur, Guthu, Ghatgaun had initiated campaigns to demolish chhaugoths. Many VDCs were subsequently declared Chhaupadi free. However, locals were not willing to let go of their tradition which was deeply rooted in their culture. They started rebuilding such huts again.
Four years ago, altogether 23 menstrual huts were demolished in Bhabar. Surprisingly, eight huts have been rebuilt in the village and many are under construction.
“Demolishing chhaugoths won’t make any difference unless people actually give up this tradition,” said Nirmala Rana, vice-chairperson of Chaukune, adding, “This is the reason we have been conducting awareness programs for Shamans and witch doctors who actually encourage this ill practice.”
Earlier, Chaukune had announced to award Shamans with Rs 3,000 if they encouraged people to abolish Chhaupadi. All wards had issued notices regarding this decision. However, no Shaman has ever been awarded with the incentive.
Meanwhile, Dhir Bahadur Shahi, chairperson of Chaukune Rural Municipality stated that the local units have prioritized eliminating the fear and superstition from people’s mind instead of destroying Chhaugoths.
After failing to abolish Chhaupadi by demolishing huts, Panchapur Rural Municipality is planning to deprive people from government services if they continue practicing Chhaupadi.
“The municipal meeting has decided to deprive households practicing Chhaupadi from government services,” said Upendra Bahadur Thapa, mayor of Panchpuri. He says if people still neglect this decision, the municipality will be taking stern action against them.
In the first phase, the municipality has urged all the local representatives to demolish Chhaugoths at their homes and join the campaign to discourage others to give up this tradition.