“Did you have your period? “—asked a friend of mine as we were heading to restroom, we were in grade 6. I knew I had heard about it, but was unknown to it at the same time. I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. As the conversation went on, she explained me about it. It was a natural process, where women bled and that would be a part of their life.
When I first got my period, I was a little excited, as I had seen many senior girls go to the bathroom, they used to secretly put their hands in their bag and take the pad as if it was a secret weapon, it seemed more like the spies hiding their weapons like in the movies. Little did I know, there was more to it.
Well, real life isn’t anything like the movies right, so as I got my period I was so annoyed and felt it was unfair at the same time. Unfair, because it happened just to girls and annoyed—because we had to act like something was wrong with us; as you had to be sure you didn’t get the stain in your dress, the discomfort in the beginning and much more.
As classes went on in school, we had health education class where we had gained knowledge on it and how the hygiene should be taken care of during menstruation. At the same time, there was our Social Studies class where we had learnt about many taboos that were going around in our country. As annoyed I was with the whole period thing, I was angrier and sad to know about a taboo called “Chaupadi Pratha”, where women/girls had to spend 5-6 days in a small hut outside their house during menstruation, as they were said to be unclean and sinful.
Chaupadi is a social tradition where women are isolated during their period. Menstruating women are viewed as impure and are thought to offend the gods and bring down a curse on their households if they remain indoors. They had to live outside in cow sheds or makeshift huts, regardless of the weather.
Not just in rural areas, but it was taking place in the urban areas as well, not to the extent as it was in the rural areas. Listening to the stories from the ones who had stayed in the hut were dreadful. Every individual had their own stories, and each story had the misery to it.
“-How many women fit here ?
– 4 or 5
-But sometimes there are as much as 10 to 15 women.” (Menstruating in a chaupadi hut in Nepal – vpro Metropolis)
“I stayed in the sheds too. I used to get shivers and I would feel scared of snakes and insects and I would feel really cold out in the sheds during winter.” (Chaupadi Pratha—Menstrual Taboo in Nepal)
“The young man used to live behind my house. We never really met, it was the fourth day of my period and I was sleeping in the goth(hut). At around 11pm or midnight the guy came and raped me, I was very scared at that point couldn’t scream or couldn’t say anything to anyone.” (Women in Nepal are Exiled Each Month, The New York Times)
These are just some of the part of their stories, there are a lot of scary stories when you keep discovering it.
Many people have tried their best to get rid of this tradition. When people go around villages telling people about it consequences and how unhealthy it is, the villagers get angry and shout at them. Not all, but the majority would always get them kicked out of their village for their thinking.
But now, a law was passed on 5th August 2017 Wednesday by the parliament ending this old tradition of chaupadi. The new law, which will come into effect in a year’s time, which specifies a three-month jail sentence or a 3000 rupees fine, or both, for anyone forcing a woman to follow the custom. The new law came in action due to the tragic death of 19-year girl from western Dailekh district, who was reported dead while being bitten by a poisonous snake when she was staying in prohibition during her menstrual period in a cowshed.
It is nice to see such tradition being abolished, as it was making life difficult for the women in the areas where it is practiced. There have been lots of death and many incidents that have been life-haunting to the girls, but there wasn’t any action being taken. But due to this one incident, which was reported made a huge difference. It made a taboo which was awful go away. Just taking a step forward can make a change, that’s something I would like to remind everyone.