Nepalese women banished to cattle sheds during menstruation because of “impurity”

13 year old Sarswati Biswo-Karma sits inside a "chhaupadi house" in the Nepalese village of Achham. (PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)

In Nepal, thousands of girls and women are subjected to a practice called Chhaupadi, which entails being banished to cattle sheds or makeshift huts during their periods because of so-called “impurity.” The beliefs behind Chhaupadi dictate that without this isolation, menstruating women bring death and destruction on their families — if a menstruating woman touches a crop, the crop will wilt; if she fetches water, the well will dry up; if she stays in the house, she and her loved ones will become ill.

Chhaupadi was outlawed by Nepal’s Supreme Court in 2005, but the practice remains widely observed in western parts of the country. Radha Paudel, head of grassroots organization Action Works Nepal (Awon), says that despite the court ruling, Nepal’s government has done nothing to actively eradicate the practice. She says that as many as 95 percent of girls and women in Nepal’s mid- and far-reaching western regions practice Chhaupadi, and that Nepalese women all over the country still practice the tradition to varying degrees. Research by Awon has found that 77 percent of girls and women felt humiliated during their periods, and two-thirds felt lonely and scared due to isolation. Staying in cowsheds also comes with health risks such as illness, attacks from animals or drunk men, and high infant and maternal mortality rates as mothers and infant babies are banished to shed after birth.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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