• Спецпроекты
  • Weather forecast
    • Exchange Rates
    • 425.63
    • 515.99
    • 5.92
  • SEND YOUR NEWS TO US WhatsApp +7 (777) 001 44 99
  1. Main
  2. Read

Nepali girls confined by stigma and superstition

  • Vkontakte
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Одноклассники
  • Telegram
Новостью поделились: человек

Nepali girls confined by stigma and superstition Nepali girls confined by stigma and superstition

Saraswati Biswokarma sits in the dark, rearranging the threadbare cotton sheet and straw bed she is forced to sleep on before bringing her knees up to her chest with a shiver.

It is already mid-morning but she has not been allowed out of the airless brick shed where she has spent every night for the past week.

The 13-year-old was effectively banished to the shed -- barely big enough to stand or lie down in -- where she must experience her first period alone in a traumatic ordeal.

"I've been here eight nights so I have one left," she says with a nervous smile. "It's not nice here, it's scary and I felt very alone on the first night. I was so scared."

Saraswati's isolation is part of a centuries-old Hindu ritual known as chhaupadi that has been blamed for prolonged depression and even deaths in remote, impoverished western Nepal.

Under the practice, women are prohibited from participating in normal family activities during menstruation and after childbirth, and can have no contact with men of the household.

Chandrakal Nepali prepares her bedding inside a
Chandrakal Nepali prepares her bedding inside a "chhaupadi house". ©AFP

"I'm not allowed to touch any cattle or go inside our house. I have to stay in the shed and when my mother calls I have to wait nearby the house with a plate so she can give me food," Saraswati says.

She is also barred from consuming dairy products or meat or taking a bath. Even looking in the mirror is frowned upon.

The practice stems from the belief that when women have periods they are impure and will bring bad luck on a whole family if they stay in the house and will contaminate anything they touch.

In 2005, the government, in line with a Supreme Court order, enacted a law abolishing chhaupadi but enforcement has been minimal or non-existent.

Saraswati's shelter, known as a chhaupadi goth, looks like a miniature cow shed, with a dirt floor and no windows or running water.

In January last year, two women were found dead in chhaupadi goths in the remote district of Achham after temperatures dropped to 30F (-1C). In another case, a 15-year-old died of diarrhoea contracted while sleeping in a shed.

Chandrakala Nepali, 17, is preparing for her fifth night in her goth.

Nepalese villager Chandrakal Nepali. ©AFP
Nepalese villager Chandrakal Nepali. ©AFP

Her parents went to Mumbai to find work two years ago, leaving her and four younger siblings to live with relatives in a house high up in the hills an hour's walk from Mangalsen, the main town in Achham.

"During the day I'm allowed out but only to work in the jungle, collecting firewood," she says, sweeping the dark, cold hut, which is barely big enough to lie down in.

"I'm not allowed to walk on the same road as the cattle and I'm not allowed to be with my family for seven days. To eat, I sit outside the house and they bring me food on a plate.

"When I'm alone in the shed I feel scared. There are insects and I'm afraid of snakes coming in."

Chandrakala says that if she has daughters she would never force chhaupadi on them.

But few women are prepared to challenge the status quo, and many continue the ritual for fear of community disapproval or out of religious belief.

Chandrakal Nepali (C) eats as children look on in the village of Achham. ©AFP
Chandrakal Nepali (C) eats as children look on in the village of Achham. ©AFP

Pashupati Kuwar, 30, lives with her five children in Budhakot, a small hamlet high in the hills.

Her husband is away, working in the Indian city of Pune, while her in-laws died several years ago, but Kuwar still observes chhaupadi.

"I don't touch any cattle for five days. I sleep on straw. Most of the day I go out but I go back to the shed to sleep," she said.

Pashupati says she will make her six- and 13-year-old daughters take part in the ritual.

"Some people think it's wrong but if I didn't do this my god would be angry."

Pashupati's own mother, Kunta Rawal, 45, has turned her back on chhaupadi.

"Before I thought it was important because of what I was told by elders and society but I have been made to realise that it is wrong," she says.

Nepal's education ministry is hoping to establish a literacy drive in the region, including health education classes dedicated exclusively to reproductive health and menstrual hygiene.

Chandrakal Nepali ©AFP
Chandrakal Nepali ©AFP

Thanks to campaigns by humanitarian organisations like UNICEF, the sites of confinement are beginning to improve, with women often allowed in separate rooms in the main house rather than banished outside.

Janaki Bohara, 40, president of the Bahagyaswor Paralegal Committee, a women's advocacy group supported by UNICEF, says she will refuse to allow her 14-year-old daughter to take part in the ritual.

"If I see families doing this to their daughters I will say to them 'look at me -- I have nothing to do with chhaupadi but nothing has happened to me'. I'm ready to go to villages and fight people about this issue."

Meanwhile Saraswati's 18-year-old aunt, Radhika Biswokarma, is a rare example of a chhaupadi rebel.

"After the first time I stayed in the chhaupadi goth I decided from then on I would not do it again," she said. "Society said to me 'your god will be angry' but I don't care."

By Frankie Taggart from AFP

Nobel prizewinner proposes a new city in KZ
New abnormal snowfalls expected in Kazakhstan
Huge glacier retreat triggered in 1940s
Hyperloop construction begins in Las Vegas
"Moonlight" to top Spirit Awards nominations
Oil prices fall due to investors uncertainty
New dwarf galaxy discovered around Milky Way
Kanat Islam becomes a top ten WBO boxer
World oil prices continue to rise
Kazakhstan expects warming - Kazhydromet
Merkel to seek fourth term as chancellor
Sale of Tintin drawings set to break records
US, EU stocks fall as markets focus on dollar
Pacific leaders urged to defend free trade
EU warns eight nations on budget deficit
Universiade-2017: Athletic Village is ready
Bob Dylan can't make Nobel ceremony
Messi will never leave Barca - club president
Google, Facebook take aim at 'fake' news
Aerosmith announces Europe 'farewell' tour
Putin, Trump to normalise US-Russia ties
At least 10 hurt in southern Turkey blast
6.2 quake hits western Japan

Firebase Cloud Messaging