Nepal criminalizes custom of menstrual isolation
Menstrual taboo is included in various religions but takes one of its most extreme forms in the Hindu tradition of chaupadi, or menstrual isolation . According to Hindu scripture, women are ‘impure’ while menstruating, forcing families to restrict them to sheds outside the home until their cycle is over. This custom puts women at risk for exposure to life threatening natural elements as well as intruders, leading to three tragic deaths in the past year alone.
In 2005, the practice of chaupadi was banned by Nepal’s Supreme Court, citing it as a human rights violation. However, without any serious penalties to enforce the law the practice continued. In fact, a study conducted this year showed that 60 percent of the population was not even aware that practicing chaupadi was illegal. This month, lawmakers in Nepal passed a new law criminalizing the practice, offenders face up to three months jail time and/or a $30 fine .
The chaupadi custom is deeply engrained in the customs of many communities in Nepal, leaving many worried that enforcement of the ban will result in natural disasters. Activists have recognized that while the new law is a beneficial step to eradicate the menstrual stigma, education programs are needed to create lasting change . Apsara Neupane, a municipality deputy mayor, commented on the need to alter societal views on the issue, stating that he is “glad to see that there has been a gradual change in how people perceive the Chaupadi practice,” but “having a strong law is important but reforming social customs may take more time” .
1. “Nepal criminalises banishing menstruating women to huts,” last modified August 10, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40885748
2. Danielle Preiss, “Confined To A ‘Menstrual Shed,’ A Teen Is Bitten By A Snake And Dies,” last modified July 10, 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/07/10/536483652/banished-to-a-menstrual-shed-a-teen-in-nepal-is-bitten-by-a-snake-and-dies
3. Hannah Summers, “Nepal outlaws custom of exiling women during their periods,” last modified August 10, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/aug/10/nepal-outlaws-custom-of-exiling-women-during-their-periods