Cold worsens menses woes in far-west

Bajura, January 8

Many women in Bajura are forced bear the brunt of the bone-biting cold due to the deep-rooted chhaupadi practice that banishes women from home and compels them to sleep in chhau sheds during menstruation.

Menstruating women do not get any blanket, quilt or mattress in the chhau shed.

Ujjal Dhami, 32, of Himali Rural Municipality, Bajura, has been braving the freezing cold in a Chhau shed with only the clothes on her body for the last two days.

Ujjal has no option but to bear the brunt of this evil custom. “I have been facing a very hard time as there is no mattress on blanket. I have no clothes other than what I am wearing,” she said. Ujjal said that she had been going through this ordeal for the past 15 years.

Mina BK of Chededaha Rural Municipality also has a similar story. She said she had fallen ill due to the cold.

Chairperson Rukmani Shah of Women Rights Forum said women living in chhaupadi sheds faced many problems in all the nine local levels of the district. “Most of the women sleeping in chhau sheds suffer headache, fever and diarrhoea, among other cold-related diseases,” she added.

Chhaupadi was outlawed by the Supreme Court of Nepal in 2005, but the practice continues in some remote places of western Nepal.

In Bajura, Achham, Bajhang and Doti, among other hilly districts of the Far-west Province, chhaupadi is still commonly practiced.

A belief that staying at home during menstruation will displease the  gods and bring misfortune is deep-rooted even  among educated girls, which has made it difficult for organisations  and government bodies working in this field to eradicate chhaupadi.

Unmarried menstruating girls are compelled to stay in chhaupadi sheds for seven days while married women have to stay for five days, as per traditional customs.