JUMLA, Jan 9: Chhau sheds (menstruation hut) are being dismantled in western Nepal following strict directive from the government to end the malpractice of banishing women to such sheds during their periods. However, uprooting this tradition does not seem that easy in Jumla. Unlike other districts where Chhaupadi tradition is in practice, chhau sheds are not built outside the houses here. Instead, girls and women in Jumla are forced to share space with cattle at the sheds meant for cows and goats when they bleed.
"Women cannot mix up with others during menstruation. They have to stay at a corner in cowsheds," said Bishnu Budha of Tila Rural Municipality. "This is an age-old practice here. And such sheds are at the ground floor,” she added.
According to Budha, women do develop skin and other types of health problems as they stay in animal sheds. However, that's the way things are in Jumla.
Harikala Nepali of the same municipality stated that many women even get vaginal infection. But they do not share the problem with anyone unless it gets severe.
"Due to the lack of awareness, they do not stay clean. Moreover, when you are kept in animal shed, it is not possible to maintain hygiene," she said. "Thus, many women have health problems including vaginal inflection," she added.
According to Nepali, it is inhumane to treat women as untouchables during menstruation. “But it is not easy to change the people's mindset. Here women are treated like animals, but everyone takes it normally as it has been the tradition," she stated.
After Parbati Budha Rawat, 21, of Achham died in chhau shed on December 2, her brother in law was arrested by police. It is the first ever arrest in the country in connection with chhaupadi tradition. The home ministry then issued directive to the local administration to stop this ill practice.
Nepali stated that the local administration alone cannot do much when people are not willing to change. They have to be made aware that continuing with chhaupadi tradition could land them in jail.
"During some religious occasions, women are not even given space in sheds. As per the belief, women should not touch the floor of the room when she is menstruating," she said. "Then they spend the night under the open sky," she added.
Vice chair of Tila Rural Municipality Bishnu Budha meanwhile stated that the construction of houses in the coming days should be a little different. "To do away with chhau tradition, the construction of houses should be modern," he said.
According to Durga Banjade, CDO of Jumla, some families keep their female members safely in the upper floor during menstruation. But such families are few.
"We have thoroughly studied chhau tradition here. Some families are more aware than the others and do not send them to animal sheds," she said. "We have to keep working to create awareness," she added.
Chhau tradition is prevalent Tila, Tatopani, Kanaksundari, Chandannath and Bharatibada areas of Jumla.