BAJHANG, Dec 22: With the aim of eradicating Chhaupadi, the women of Dhamile, Jaya Prithvi Municipality-11, have launched a campaign to ostracize those families in the area that practice or encourage Chhaupadi.
Even though the government a few months ago proposed a policy to criminalize the age-old tradition of Chaupadi terming it inhumane and discriminatory, it is still widely prevalent in the rural parts of the country. As per the tradition, menstruating women and girls are considered impure and are forced to live in cowsheds during their periods. According to Asha Joshi of Dhamile, women have to suffer not only physically but also mentally while living in cowsheds.
Joshi who was raised in Dhangadhi came to Dhamile after her marriage. She said she didn't like the way she and other women were treated by the family members and society during menstruation. She tried to raise her voice against the ill practice but received nothing more than criticism. "That is the reason I convinced and gathered so many women for raising their voice against the ill practice of Chhaupadi," Asha said. During their periods, women can cut grass for the cattle but cannot have their milk, curd or any other products.
Keshari Devi Joshi of the same village laments that while living in cowsheds during their periods, women face the risk of being bitten by snakes and other insects in monsoon while the biting cold steals their sleep in the winter. It is pathetic to see menstruating nursing mothers sleep in cowsheds along with their infants. As informed by Keshari, last year two women of a neighboring village were raped in the cowsheds they were living in during their periods. Instead of punishing the perpetrators, society questioned the girls' character and even expelled them from the village.
These days, Karuna Joshi, chairperson of Dhauldeu Women Group is busy conducting meetings with the women and men of various communities.
"There are around 37 Chhaupadi sheds in Dhamile alone and we are planning to destroy all of them," said Karuna, adding, "The families who encourage this ill practice will be ostracized and will also be subjected to a stern punishment." She further informed Republica that it is very important for society to understand that menstruation is a natural process. "No women should be treated as an untouchable due to this," said Karuna.
Caption: women conducting an awareness program against Chhaupadi in Dhamile