Menstruating women in far western hill districts were forced to stay inside isolation huts that were dark, dank and poorly ventilated. The government has now declared this practice unlawful and a campaign has been launched to demolish such secluded structures. The superstitious belief had it that family gods would get angry if the menstruating girls and women, and in some cases women after infant delivery, stayed in the main family home. Menstruating women are traditionally regarded impure in this society and disastrous consequences are predicted if they stayed in the same home where the gods are worshipped. After the demolition of the isolated sheds, standing as the symbol of social stigma, superstition, deaths and illnesses, concerned girls and women are happily sharing the homes with their male family members. It is the same dwelling where the family gods are worshipped. The predictions of dire consequences is nothing but superstition.
One of the women in her period who abandoned the secluded shed and joined the main family home, said that nothing untoward has happened after breaking this social taboo. If men and women are the equal creation of God, why should there be a social taboo that bans women from staying in the same home with their family members? The barbaric practice continued, nobody knows since how long, until the present government outlawed it and started a campaign to demolish the secluded menstruation sheds locally known as Chhau Goth. In the height of superstition, people who predicted of disastrous consequences due to wrath of family gods, ironically paid no attention to the deaths and illnesses happening inside the sheds. The Chhau demolition drive is a battle against inhuman practices and social stigma that stand as paradox to the twenty-first century world. This practice also stood as a mocking challenge to the now democratic political system the nation has embraced, and the new constitution that ensures human rights and dignity. Such practices pose serious threats to the norms of women empowerment, gender equality and a dignified human life.
As per the news story from Bajura published in this daily on Thursday, women who joined their family members in their home after the end of the menstruation seclusion have said that they are happy, comfortable and confident in their new social life. When social practice turns barbaric and inhuman, a radical intervention becomes inevitable. The battle in this front succeeds when social crusaders and the government join hands to launch a decisive campaign. This has now been seen in the western hills of Nepal. During menstruation, girls and women are advised to pay attention to hygiene and sanitation. Using sanitary pads is now officially recommended. But putting them in isolation inside a worm infested, damp and suffocating shed never contributes to enhancing their cleanliness. The concept of purity associated with Chhaupadi practice is flawed and superstitious as they have led to death and diseases. It is a matter of pride that local level governments in Bajura are now active to train women on menstrual hygiene and provide them with sanitary pads. Every citizen has to play a constructive role in this social campaign.