Nepal’s government is going to great lengths to protect women and girls of reproductive age.
The country is implementing new tactics to stop ”chhaupadi,” a long-standing tradition that banishes women and girls to huts while they’re menstruating, the Guardian reports.
The country’s Supreme Court first criminalized the act in 2005, and in 2017, it became punishable with three months in prison and a 3,000 rupee fine. But many Nepalese families continue to take the risk out of fear that women who experience the bodily function are impure and bad luck. Just last week, 35-year-old mother Amba Bohara and her two sons were found dead in a menstrual hut in Western Nepal’s Bajura province — a reminder of the country’s ongoing issue.
“It’s been a year and we are trying to make people aware about chhaupadi,” Janak Bhandari, ward president for Bhandari’s village in Achham district told the Guardian of the newly enforced fines.
The government is also cutting off state support services for anyone who is caught honoring the tradition. One Nepalese woman named Dilu Bhandari told the Guardian she was outraged to learn the news, but since destroying her menstrual hut can now safely stay in her home during her period.
Bhandari reported 20% fewer women are putting their lives at risk by sleeping in menstrual huts since the country tightened up its laws.
But advocacy groups say progress is moving slower than authorities are letting on. Pasupati Kunwar, president of the women’s rights advocacy group Sama Bikash Nepal, told the Guardian chhaupadi has only declined among 60% of the country’s population, versus 95% when she first started campaigning against it 10 years ago.
Last week, Parbati Bhuda died in Nepal while in a Chhaupadi hut, a practice meant to keep girls away from the community while on her period. She is one of more than a dozen girls who've lost their lives going through this menstrual exile.— She's the First (@shesthefirst) June 18, 2018
“People who make policy and run programs — and even human rights advocates — often don’t fully understand the impact a woman’s monthly period may have on her ability to go about her life if she doesn’t have what she needs to manage it,” Amanda Klasing, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said on the obstacles facing menstrual hygiene.
Communities around the country are trying to find their own solutions. Ramaroshan, a rural municipality in Achham district, built a temple to create a safe space for worship that allows women and girls to stay home while menstruating. However, this fix doesn’t destigmatize menstruation and further perpetuates the cultural norms that stop women from participating in their society. Between 10% and 20% of girls around the world stay home from school because they lack the ability to manage their periods safely, according to the World Bank.
“This ill-practice has to end soon and we are working on this,” Kaushila Bhatta, a Dadeldhura district chairperson, told the Guardian.