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Chhaupadi, the Tradition of Exclusion of Women During Menstruation in Nepal

| 24.1.22 |
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Pictures of Exclusion of Women During Menstruation in Nepal

The chhaupadi tradition is a very controversial tradition in Nepal. Opposed by all women's communities in Nepal, eventually this tradition was banned in Nepal by the local government. The word chhaupadi comes from a local word used in the Raute dialect of the Accham district in the west, where chhau means menstruation and padi means a woman. The following is the history of the chhaupadi tradition until it was finally opposed by many people.

The chhaupadi tradition is a tradition carried out by every woman who is menstruating, but during their menstrual period they are exiled to a place that is very far from where they live.

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As is known, Nepal is a country that borders India and the majority there are Hindus. Many traditional Hindu families impose certain restrictions on women when they are menstruating. The chhaupadi tradition is a tradition carried out by every woman who is menstruating, but during their menstrual period they are exiled to a place that is very far from where they live. The word chhaupadi comes from a local word used in the Raute dialect of the Accham district in the far west, where chhau means menstruation and padi means a woman. This is mainly driven by a belief that is considered "superstitious" for most of the people there if a woman who is menstruating still lives in the same house with her family, it is considered a phase of impurity that makes Dewa angry and has a negative impact on a family. There is also a belief that if a menstruating woman has touched a cow, it will die, if it crosses a water source, the river will dry up, if it touches some fruit, it will fall before it is ripe, and so on. Not only that, if such a woman accidentally touches someone, the person who is touched must be purified with cow urine which is considered sacred. Menstruating women are advised not to walk to temples and from attending any religious ceremonies, even marriages in the belief that it is impure. For its own taboo, menstruating women are not allowed a nutritious diet such as milk, meat, fruits, and green vegetables and they have to survive by eating rice, salt, and some cereals or dry food. They always experience the fear of danger if they accidentally touch something.

Even mothers who have just given birth are locked up in huts. Mothers with weak postpartum conditions, they have to take care of their own children

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The hut which is used as a residence for menstruating women is 1 x 2 meters. Usually, such huts have no doors, are very narrow, dark, congested, have dirty and cold floors, and have beds and places to sit. Chhau are of two types, major chhau and minor chhau. In minor chhau (monthly menstruation) women have to stay in these huts for up to 5 days and in major chhau the stay lasts up to 11 days, which is mainly the period after childbirth and menarche. On the last day the women bathe, wash clothes, bed and return home. However, even on the last day, they were not allowed to clean themselves in public water sources. Therefore, women who practice Chhaupadi have to bathe and clean their clothes at the "Chhaupadi Dhara", a separate well or faucet near the village. chhaupadi has several health effects associated with it. Menstruating women were forced to endure the cold in winter and hot in summer in the huts. It can cause life-threatening health problems such as pneumonia, diarrhea, chest infections, suffocation, and respiratory infections. During those days even though women are prohibited from entering the house, they are still expected to do more laborious work such as carrying heavy things, digging, gathering firewood and grass even though there is no nutritious and comfort food. As a consequence, the rate of uterine prolapse was high among this group. Even mothers who have just given birth are locked up in huts. Mothers with weak postpartum conditions, they have to take care of their own children. Due to poor nutrition and vulnerable living conditions, neonatal and maternal mortality rates are high in areas where chhaupadi is common.

The relationship of the chhaupadi tradition to human rights

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According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 25 states "Everyone has the right to live a standard of living with adequate health care, security, food, clothing, housing and necessary social services". The World Conference on Women's Rights, the Beijing declaration and other platforms of action have agreed that "The human rights of women and girls are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms". The Vienna Declaration and program of action in paragraph 38 call for “the eradication of conflicts that may arise between women's rights and the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism”. Since the chhaupadi tradition as a traditional practice violates women's rights as human beings and as members of the reproductive age group, it is not difficult to see that the practice is a case of direct violation of all these international laws and declarations.

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In the end, even though this tradition has been banned in Nepal, there are still people who practice it

Nepal's interim constitution of 2007 ensures the right to equality in article 12 and the right to reproductive health in article 20. In particular, article 29 paragraph 2 states “No one shall be exploited in the name of any custom, tradition and use or in any other way. ". More specifically, in May 2005, the Supreme Court of Nepal issued a directive to the Nepalese government for the formulation of a law to ban the chhaupadi tradition. In 2008, Nepal's Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare had enacted guidelines to abolish chhaupadi. Although made illegal by Nepalese law and as a violation of international laws and treaties, chhaupadi as a tradition is still alive in some parts of Nepal mainly because it has been promoted and preserved by the people for generations. Because of this, chhaupadi raises several legal and ethical problems. These ethical concerns will now be discussed in the context of liberalism and communitarianism. Since 2017, the chhaupadi tradition has become one of the criminal cases in Nepal and anyone who forces people to do this tradition will be sentenced to 1 month in prison and a fine of 3,000 rupees.

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