“International Human Rights Day and Chaupadi”

Today is 65th International Human Rights Day.  On this occasion there is a huge celebration. Government Organizations, NGOs, INGOs and even local organizations are celebrating with different programs and  rallies. Back here in rural Nepal Chaupadi system is still alive. This time we are advocating for “Ending violence against women and children must become a priority for everyone during the coming years….” but it seems there won’t be any full stop to Chaupadi system in Nepal. 

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Woman sharing her experience in Chaupadi

During my field visit to Sugarkhal, I met a woman who lives across the Karnali River. She is 27 years old and was married when she was just 16 years old. Her husband carry people in a boat to cross the Karnali river and sometimes catch fishes  for their living. It is a small family with three children, two sons and a daughter but they are struggling  as they belong to poor and lower caste. I observed their surroundings. It was a small typical Nepali house with shed. The family also comprises of buffaloes, goats and few chicken and a dog. Beside their home there was a small hut with blanket on it. I asked the lady who was extremely happy to see us near her home and invited for snacks. She laughed at me and said,” you even do not know what is this?  Don’t you have to stay in this when you have your Chhau.” Surprisingly I looked at her face and said “Chhau”.

 Then she explained, “Chhau is menstruation and Padi means woman.  Chaupadi Pratha generally prevails in Far Western region of Nepal. Females are forced to stay in the shed for thirteen days during their first and second menstrual cycle, seven days in their third cycle and four days of every other menstrual cycle. The practice of Chaupadi is also followed by woman during child birth and for up to eleven days after the delivery. Even their babies are sent to live in these sheds with their mother.  Kids who sleep with their mother have to be purified by giving them proper bath before entering the household. In the last day of their cycle women too have to properly shower and do some rituals to purify them.”
Boat and Karnali River

Boat and Karnali River

She watched me carefully and said , “Chaupadi Pratha, one of the dark sides of woman’s life in far west women in Nepal. This is one of them; there are so many unseen and hidden tortures to women in the name of culture and tradition. I can not go to my home for four days during my period. All household chores are done by my daughter and my sons help my husband to row boat. I do not want to follow this tradition but villagers would boycott me from my village if I do not follow this. My daughter also has to follow this. Its dangerous as wild animals frequently come at night and I have to stay alone so I keep on burning fire. There are incident of rape cases and snake bites. (She laughs) this one on which I am staying is the Deluxe type. Otherwise you won’t see this kind of facilitate hut for Chaupadi. I am lucky as my husband love me so much.”
Chaudapi

A hut where women stay away from home during menstruation

Due to unhealthy these huts, women suffer from various infectious diseases. Diarrhea and respiratory diseases are common. Malnutrition are also seen due to lack of food during these periods. Sometimes child and mother both die due to the possibility of excessive bleeding following labor or with other illness. 

Of all the cultural practices that oppress Nepali women, none is as degrading as chaupadi. Women live in small huts made of mud, straw and wood which are barely two feet high and two feet wide. Sometimes, a common shed is built where all the women in the village stay. Women spend a total of about eight years of their life in such sheds. Medical doctors have often cited the practice of chaupadi as one of the reasons for increased cases of uterus prolepses in these parts of Nepal.

The Supreme Court of Government of Nepal has declared the practice unlawful but enforcing the law is challenging. Recently Government of Nepal has declared Chaupadi free district. Actions have been taken. I just want to highlight that there are still some tradition in Nepal which total goes against HUMAN Rights. Firstly Nepal Government should monitor whether rights of human being respected in all parts of Nepal or not. Even if Nepal has signed CEDAW decade back with great proud there are still discrimination against women and girls in form of culture and tradition.

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