Rituals: A Hindu Perspective!
There is a tradition, called Chhaupadi, in western Nepal which is associated with menstrual taboo, as menstruating women and girls (have to) live in a cattle shed or a menstruation hut – a makeshift dwelling – for the duration of their period. They do so because they are considered impure in the Himalayan country. Such a hut recently gutted in fire in western Nepal’s Bajura District, claiming the lives of 35-year-old Amba Bohara and her two sons.
Although the Parliament outlawed the ancient tradition in 2005, and introduced three-month jail terms and fines of USD 27, the practice still remains prevalent in remote areas of the country.
Senior police official Uddhav Singh Bhat said that Bohara and her children – aged 12 and nine – had lit a fire at night to keep themselves warm in the freezing mud and stone hut. However, father-in-law of the lady discovered the three dead in the next morning! According to the police officer, primary investigation suggests that they suffocated to death in the hut that had no window or ventilation system.
The social activists have expressed serious concern over the death of Bohara and her two sons, with Mohana Ansari of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) saying that the monthly exclusion leaves women at risk of snake bites, attacks by wild animals and rape! “Women will continue to die unless there are consequences for enforcing this tradition,” she added. Ansari believes that the government’s efforts to end the practice are inadequate as it needs tighter monitoring. “That a woman dies with her children during menstruation is one of the biggest tragedies,” she told the media. It is to be noted that a woman suffocated to death after she was banished in 2018 and a teenager died after a snake bite in the previous year in Nepal.
Meanwhile, sociologists are of the opinion that battling centuries-old attitudes is not easy. They have urged the government, non-governmental organisations and women’s welfare organisations to sensitise people on ill-effects of the practice. Arundati Muralidharan, the head of Water Aid in India, stressed that something as natural as menstruation becomes a nightmare for women in South Asia. “Periods are wrapped up in a culture of silence that affects adolescents and motivates responses from their family and community, so that many women lack freedom, mobility and support during their periods,” insisted Muralidharan.
A girl sits inside a Chhaupadi hut
Muralisharan explained that the Indian government and some NGOs launched campaigns to raise awareness of menstrual hygiene society in recent past. However, the campaigns failed to get success mainly because of the lack of sexual education that remains a pending issue in India. As there are many taboos that surround this biological process, Muralisharan believes that it becomes important for the government to transmit the sex education to young people and their parents.
Unfortunately, 70% of South Asian mothers consider menstruation as dirty!
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