Chhaupadi continues in SurkhetThe country may have criminalised Chhaupadi, the practice of banishing teenage girls and women to secluded huts during their menstrual periods, but there are still many places in Surkhet where the tradition prevails.
The country may have criminalised Chhaupadi, the practice of banishing teenage girls and women to secluded huts during their menstrual periods, but there are still many places in Surkhet where the tradition prevails.
Some of these places were even declared ‘Chhaupadi-free zones’ by their residents.
The Bhapar village of Chaukune Rural Municipality-6 is one of them. The village was declared Chhaupadi-free zone four years ago, but in reality the discriminatory and sometimes fatal practice continues. Here, women who are menstruating are still considered ‘impure and untouchable’ and forced to menstrual exile.
The tricky part about getting rid of Chhaupadi here is that even women feel like they have to keep the tradition going.
“We cannot ignore our tradition. Yes, several Chhaupadi huts were demolished when the anti-Chhaupadi campaign was conducted in our village, but many of us still adhere to our age-old tradition,” said Pratima Bayak, a local woman.
There are currently four Chhaupadi huts in Bhapar. They are occupied by teenage girls and women during their monthly period for six days.
Laxmidevi Upadhyay has followed the Chhaupadi tradition all her life. She says that though a part of her believes that Chhaupadi is discriminatory and dangerous for women, another part of her fears that by discontinuing the practice a grave misfortune could befall in the village.
“We fear that our gods will be angry and punish us if women in the village decide to remain in their homes during their periods,” she said.
Rather than trying to abolish Chhaupadi by criminalising it, Laxmidevi suggests that the municipal office should build a separate building where women could safely observe the practice.
Indra Prasad Dhakal, the ward chairman of Chukune-6, said the municipal office was doing its best to eliminate Chhaupadi.
“People are not going to change their mindset overnight. We have to slowly wean them off the practice that they have religiously followed all their lives through education and awareness programmes,” he said.
Dhakal’s major concern at the moment is stopping village elderlies and parents from pressuring the young generation into following the tradition.
The country criminalised Chhaupadi in August 2017 stipulating a three-month jail sentence and/or Rs 3,000 fine for those convicted of Chhaupadi crime.