Snake bite. Death by smoke inhalation. Hypothermia. These are just a few of the hazards — from humiliating to fatal — faced by menstruating women and girls in Nepal.
In a beautifully-wrought story on life in western rural Nepal, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman investigates the practice of banishing women from their homes every month when they bleed — a custom that relegates them to tiny huts and crawl spaces he dubs “menstruation foxholes.” The overwhelming tradition in this region holds that the women are somehow toxic or polluted, and will bring sickness or injury to the household.
A superstitious farmer named Runcho shares how, about a decade ago, he accidentally brushed up against his daughter when she was menstruating and claims to have lost his sight for several days. “It was a nightmare.”
But the practice of chhaupadi — which results in the death of at least one woman or girl every year — is under scrutiny by the government and women’s rights advocates, Gettleman writes, and it will soon be a crime to force menstruating women into isolation.
Enforcing the new laws will be an uphill battle, though. Sometimes activists convince families to destroy their huts, only to see them all rebuilt within months.
The compelling story is a deep-dive into the incredible power of the taboo, the grim and heartbreaking losses of life, tender family stories, and the inspiring rebels determined to make a change.
Read the full story at The New York Times.