Chhaupadi (Nepali: छाउपडी Listen (help·info)) is a social tradition associated with the menstrual taboo in the western part of Nepal. The tradition prohibits Hindu women from participating in normal family activities while menstruating, as they are considered "impure".
The women are kept out of the house and have to live in a cattle shed or a makeshift hut. This period of time lasts between ten and eleven days when an adolescent girl has her first period; thereafter, the duration is between four and seven days each month. Childbirth also results in a ten to eleven-day confinement. During this time, women are forbidden to touch men or even to enter the courtyard of their own homes. They are barred from consuming milk, yogurt, butter, meat, and other nutritious foods, for fear they will forever mar those goods. The women must survive on a diet of dry foods, salt, and rice. They cannot use warm blankets and are allowed only a small rug; most commonly, this is made of jute (also known as burlap). They are also restricted from going to school or performing daily functions like taking a bath.
Dangerous practice causing recurring deaths
Women have died while performing the practice, including two young women in late 2016 who died from smoke inhalation and "carbon monoxide poisoning" from lighting fires to heat secluded makeshift shelters, huts and sheds during cold weather; this was a common cause of death in poorly ventilated huts. Rape, snakebites and wild animal attacks were other common causes of death of banished women practising Chhaupadi.
Age-old superstition tied to local culture
This system comes from the superstition of impurity during the menstruation period. In this superstitious logic, if a menstruating woman touches a tree, it will never again bear fruit; if she consumes milk, the cow will not give any more milk; if she reads a book, Saraswati, the goddess of education, will become angry; if she touches a man, he will be ill.
Illegality of the practice
Chhaupadi was outlawed by the Supreme Court of Nepal in 2005, but the tradition has been slow to change. In 2017, Nepal passed a law punishing people who force women into exile during menstruating with up to three months in jail or a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees.
- Ghimire, Laxmi (May 2005). "Unclean & Unseen" (PDF). Student BMJ. Retrieved December 3, 2008.[permanent dead link]
- McNamara, Brittney. "A 15-Year-Old Girl Died When She Was Banished to a Hut for Menstruating". Teen Vogue. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
- Evelyn Nieves, "In Nepal, Monthly Exile for Women", New York Times "Lens", Jan. 5, 2017.
- "15-Year-Old Girl Found Dead In A Menstrual Hut In Nepal", NPR, Dec. 20, 2016.
- "The Risky Lives of Women Sent Into Exile—For Menstruating", National Geographic, March 10, 2017.
- "Nepal: Emerging from menstrual quarantine". Integrated Regional Information Networks. 3 August 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- By roshan sedhai, associated press (2012-09-20). "Nepal strengthens laws against dowry, menstrual exile - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. Archived from the original on 2017-08-10. Retrieved 2017-08-10.
- (BBC) Women hail menstruation ruling
- (BBC) Nepal's 'confined women' want change
- (National Geographic) The Risky Lives of Women Sent Into Exile—For Menstruating
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