Chhaupadi is still a norm in AchhamMany women in Achham have been found observing Chhaupadi despite the government outlawing the depraved tradition of banishing menstruating and postnatal women to sheds deeming them impure and untouchable.
Many women in Achham have been found observing Chhaupadi despite the government outlawing the depraved tradition of banishing menstruating and postnatal women to sheds deeming them impure and untouchable.
The Chhaupadi tradition lives on in places like Dhakari, Dhungachalna, Hichma and Balata, where women are voluntarily choosing to live in sheds during their periods and after giving birth. They are not ready to do away with the practice because they fear of being excommunicated for challenging the custom.
“We cannot just ignore the tradition that we have been following for years. If I dared to stay in my house when I am menstruating, I could be ostracised by my family and my community,” said Nanda Saud of Balata.
Saud and other women in Balata and other villages are aware that the government has criminalised Chhaupadi. Still, they are adamant on keeping the tradition alive. The anti-Chhaupadi campaigns run by social organisations have had little impact on the women in the village.
Demolishing the Chhaupadi sheds have not helped either, says social activist Hastana Budha of Dhakari.
“Many of the demolished sheds have been rebuilt and in some cases women are using animal sheds to observe Chhaupadi,” Budha said.
Chhaupadi was criminalised in August last year. A law was introduced stipulating a three-month jail sentence and/or Rs 3,000 fine for those convicted of Chhaupadi crime. “Outlawing the practice alone was not enough,” said Dhan Bahadur Khadka, the chairman of Dhakari Rural Municipality. “When you have superstitious beliefs entrenched in the psyche of the people, it is difficult to make them change overnight.”
Dhakari Rural Municipality is planning to organise a public awareness campaign to end Chhaupadi for good.
Anti-Chhaupadi campaigns are already underway in some parts of Achham at the initiative of the Women and Children Service Centre.
Whether these efforts will succeed in changing the attitude of people remains to be seen, but for now Chhaupadi is still a norm in many areas of Achham.