In Nepal, Banishment Of Menstruating Women Is Now A Criminal Offence

In Nepal, Banishment Of Menstruating Women Is Now A Criminal Offence
Poulomi Basu/New York Times

Nepal has has a long and arduous relationship with menstruation. For many centuries they have followed the custom of Chhaupadi, in which menstruating women were banished to huts outside the village for the duration of their cycle and sometimes even the days before and after. It’s a ritualistic custom linked intrinsically with the belief that women on their period are impure with some tribes even believing that natural disasters will befall their village if the girl remains within its boundaries.

Though the practice was officially banned in 2005 by the Supreme Court, it has remained prevalent in remote Western regions of Nepal and on Thursday, lawmakers have decided to criminilise the act altogether. This is in response to the deaths of two young girls during their cruel banishment. One was bitten by a snake and the other suffocated in a poorly ventilated hut when she lit a fire trying to stay warm. These horrifying incidents are only a fraction of the trials these women suffer.

Sexual predators are rife in these areas, where they know young girls have no choice but to shelter once a month. But it’s not only menstruating women who face this discrimination, post childbirth women are also forced out of their homes for anything up to ten days. In that fragile state they are left in unhygienic, intolerable conditions, it’s barely conceivable why this law has taken so long to come about.

The new law stipulates that “A woman during her menstruation or post-natal state should not be kept in chhaupadi or treated with any kind of similar discrimination or untouchable and inhuman behaviour.” and doing so could result in a three-month jail sentence and a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees. Nepal’s lawmakers stand firmly against this practice and have sworn to stay vigilant in its abolition. We can only hope this marks the end of the inhumanity.

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