While feminine issues are addressed every now and then, not everything is taken seriously, and the unspoken issues go unnoticed. Here, I’m not only addressing the horrendous issue of Chhaupadi itself but also speaking of those women and girls who fall prey to this absurd menstrual practice.
Ever thought what travelling back in time would feel like? Many in Nepal do not have to imagine, as such old and evil practises continue to occur in the 21st century!
Chhaupadi is a flawed tradition connected to the taboo surrounding menstruation that prohibits Hindu menstruators from participating in normal family activities while on their period, as they are considered impure. Although it is said to be practised in the rural part of the country, it does exist in urban areas, too.
Going back to its roots, we could perhaps rationalise that women were asked to stay cautious when menstruating because humans were closely surrounded by wildlife. The stench of blood during their period may have made them more vulnerable to attacks from these animals. But even this absurd line of thought doesn't make much sense anymore.
The practise was made illegal in 2005, but cases related to it were reported as recent as 2019. News headlines vouched for fatalities on this account. But why are there such trivial punishments for such an offence? Shouldn’t the punishments be rethought to strongly discourage Chhaupadi altogether?
Moreover, the reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg. The more you look into it, there are bound to be cases that have gone unreported because nothing immediately tragic occurred. This letter is a call for all of us to come together to fight this social plague. While the legal implications of such an offence are ambiguous, let's collectively decide that the societal implications of it will be grave. Let's refuse to accept such atrocities for our mothers, sisters and, above all, ourselves.
Gauri Tandon, via email