Chhaupadi Pratha: An Actus Reus


I found out a case study and a report on Chhaupadi Pratha in Mid and Far-Western regions of Nepal as of late. I had never heard about this kind of malpractice called “Chhaupadi Pratha” before. But when I read about it, my jaws were wide-opened in an utter shock that this practice bars women from their daily activities like work, school, and deprive them of hygiene.

Menstruation is a monthly cycle that you cannot do anything about it until menopause. It is something to celebrate about their womanhood. But they do not have the joy to celebrate it. Rather, they think it is possibly the reprobation or a retributive justice for them to be born as a woman in this life.

chhaupadi

Chhau Padi literally means “Menstruation women”. Nevertheless, the term is technically associated with the practice of secluding new moms with their newly born infants for the first 11 days after childbirth. They are isolated from family, relatives, and society and kept them in a small cold and dark shed where most often cattle were kept in other time. They are considered “impure” or “unclean” or “untouchable” during menstruation and postpartum periods.

According to this practice, when a girl has her first menstruation, she is sequestrated from her family members for 11-15 days. In the case of a mature woman, she stays in a shed for 5 days and a married woman to stay for only 4 days. The most disturbing fact is that the confined women do not get nutritious food. They believe that they should not drink and eat milk, curd, yogurt, and ghee (clarified butter). In addition, they will make their bed on some hay and do not get proper care. It is reported that many infants die during their stay with their mothers in the shed. Even if those infants escaped their fate of death, they had serious health issues and complications that developed on account of hypothermia. Some women have pneumonia and other viral infections due to cold and unhealthy food. Others are killed by a snakebite. Yet, their families and they themselves do not want change in the practice.

In response to the question why women are still adhering to this practice, one replied, “What can I do when I am born to be a woman? My irresponsible act could possibly bring illness to myself or my family or something bad could have happened to us if I broke the tradition.”

The Supreme Court of Nepal ruled out this practice as social and gender discriminatory on Monday, 2 May 2005. Moreover, Maoist insurgents also demolished and torched those “menstruation hut” during the insurgency in order to stop this malpractice. Regardless of all attempts from government civil law and terrorizing from Maoist to uproot this practice, it is still predominantly active and practiced. They believe that failing to adhere to this practice most likely invoke spirits that bring bad omen or inflict some sort of sorrows to the self, or in the family, or in the society. In response to the question why women are still adhering to this practice, one replied, “What can I do when I am born to be a woman? My irresponsible act could possibly bring illness to myself or my family or something bad could have happened to us if I broke the tradition.”

INGOs and NGOs are actively running awareness program in these regions but there is no sign of exponential growth in success. A man is no cleaner and purer than a woman. This truth should be proclaimed in this superstitious society that man and woman bear the image of God and are equal in his sight. And the problem lies in the deep down human heart and mind. Only the changing of our wicked hearts and renewal of our crooked mind can bring change in the society.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set  you free.” John 8:32
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Zacharia 4:6

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