By Chandani Acharya, Lamki (Kailali), Nov. 8: The superstitious belief that keeping menstruating women inside the house would make the god angry still, alias Chhaupadi practice, still exists in few villages of Ghodaghodi, Gauriganga, Bardagoriya and Lamkichua Municipalities among others.
13-year-old Jamuna (name changed) of Ghodaghodi Municipality-8 is on the third day of her menarche. She has been staying in Chhau goth, a traditional hut made to keep menstruating women, near her house. She lays a thin piece of cloth for her bedding inside the congested Chhau goth. “Since it is my first menstruation, I have been told that I cannot look at the male members of my family. Also, if I stay inside my house, god will be angry. Thus, I have been placed inside this hut,” said Jamuna.
Although Jamuna’s families said that she was placed in the Chhau goth only because it was her first period, the Chhau goths constructed next to many houses in the village tells a different story. The illegal custom of staying in Chhau goth is still continuing in Ghodaghodi Municipality.
Requesting anonymity, a female said, “We have been told that if we stay inside our homes during our period, the god will be angry with us. This is why we stay in Chhau goth, otherwise who would want to stay in a hut?”
After the local levels started introducing various awareness programmes to eradicate Chhaupadi practice, the females practicing it refrain from even telling their names.
Many say that the Chhau goths were handy in storing firewoods when asked why they had not destructed the huts after it was criminalised by the government.
Nirmala Sanjyal, executive committee member of Ghodaghodi Municipality said that the local government had been conducting awareness programmes against the ill practice by coordinating with schools in every ward.
“We have been holding awareness programmes in wards where Chhaupadi is still in practice. However, the women have not been able to accept that Chhaupadi has already been criminalised,” added Sanjyal.
Various local levels in Kailali have been destructing the Chhau goths within their territory.
Tika Kumari Thapa, deputy mayor of Lamkichuha Municipality, said that the local government had introduced a campaign to stop Chhaupadi practice from 2074 BS itself.
“After our requests to the senior citizens, almost 80 per cent of Chhau goths have been removed from the municipality,” added Thapa.
Section 168 (3) of the National Penal Code, 2074, has prohibited to put menstruating women in Chhau goths. This provision has been backed with the punishment of imprisonment up to three months and a fine up to Rs. 3,000.
Although the law has criminalised Chhaupadi, it has not come into practice. “Destructing the menstrual huts is not enough, awareness must be spread in the same way in order to eradicate the practice,” said Maina Dhakal, a social worker, demanding strict enforcement of the laws relating to Chhaupadi.