Chaupadi is a Hindu tradition common to all castes in rural regions of Nepal, especially in remote hill areas. The practice forces menstruating women to live in cattle sheds, barns, or even caves known as Chau goth (menstrual huts), and they are blamed for crop failures, illnesses as well as sudden deaths of animals if they fail to abide by the practice.
Reports show that Chaupadi practice leads to women’s deaths (mostly by suffocation), attacks by wild animals, snakebites, diseases, rapes, poor mental health, and infants dying of pneumonia.
Earlier this week, a second grader from Surkhet district lost her life to the tradition when she was accompanying her aunt in the Chau goth and the hut caught fire. Her aunt also died in the incident.
Though some villages have burned their Chaupadi sheds while others were declared “chaupadi-free zones” after the Supreme Court banned practising Chaupadi in 2005, a significant number of places still adhere to the age-old superstition.
A 2011 report estimated that 95 percent of women in Achham district follow it. The custom of abandonment is also laden upon new mothers during their most vulnerable stages because their bleeding status is believed to be impure and their touch is said to contaminate other people, animals, and even plants.
Despite having laws against people practicing Chaupadi, rights activists say that it is almost impossible to identify a culprit in such cases mostly because of the involvement of family members.
Feminists and related groups often point out period shaming, menstrual poverty, menstrual illiteracy, and access to sanitary menstrual products, but such calls are limited to urban areas and fail to appeal the rural population.
Ostracizing girls and women by putting their lives in peril for the biological process they go through is barbaric in this age and world. Nepali women, urban and rural, are barely aware of their sexual and reproductive rights largely due to lack of adequate open dialogues about the same.