Women In Nepal Are Exiled During Their Periods

Mary Odell / June 18, 2013

And you thought your period was rough: in the district of Achham, Nepal, women are ostracized each month while they are menstruating. During what is called “chaupadi,” a menstruating woman must stay in a small hut called a “goth” away from the village and her family. She’s also not allowed to use the same water as others or prepare food in the kitchen because she is seen as impure. All alone or with a few other women in the goth, women are extremely vulnerable to rape. Others have suffered jackal attacks, snakebites, or fire while trying to protect themselves from the elements of the Himalayas.

Because of these dangers, Nepal outlawed chaupadi in 2005. But according to The New York Times, because it’s a two-day drive outside of the capital of Kathmandu, Achham has yet to feel the effects of this change.

Tradition is deeply engrained in the lives of the people in the village and many are unwilling to let go of chaupadi, the Times explains. Chaupadi originated from Hindu practices and the violation of chaupadi promises the onslaught of unbearable bad luck, such as snakes falling from ceilings and the failure of all crops. Unwilling to take those risks, the majority of the people in Achham support exiling women on their period. Traditions here are so important to people that even a young women who was raped during chaupadi and left school to give birth to the child maintains that if she has a daughter, “I won’t do anything different — I’ll send her to the goth.”

There has been a lot of progress in eliminating chaupadi throughout Nepal and thus keeping women safer. But The Times believes Achham is not likely to change soon. Hopefully, as connectivity increases, roads are built, and remote villages are given access to the rest of the world, the practice of chaupadi will become obsolete and these Nepalese women in will not be subjected to the monthly perils of banishment.

[New York Times]
[Pulitzer Center]

[Photo of menstrual pads via Shutterstock]