The article that you will read below is somewhat really different from all my other articles. The topic I am about to discuss today is extremely sensitive and I know I may not be able to explain and give justice to this topic by my one article only. Still, I have been thinking about this for the longest time now and I think It’s time to address it and express what my thoughts are in this topic. I hope you all will go through this article and give your honest opinion on it.
“I am on my period” as simple as this sentence sounds and as simple as this situation is, there’s a world out there unknown and away from all of these facts.
Today I will take you on a journey to Western part of Nepal, where women are banished from their house for bleeding every month. I will take you on a journey where there’s a world out there, where it is completely acceptable to live in a hut, a menstrual hut just in the name of a passed on tradition.
Menstrual hut, known as “Chhaugoth” in our native language is one of the most painful but a kind of normal thing to the women of Western part of Nepal.
From my early childhood, I was taught about Chhaupadi as one of the most evil thing that is still existing in the society. Chhaupadi Usually means Menstruating women in our native language and Chhaugoth is the hut that they are kept in. We were taught that women are kept in animal sheds while they are menstruating, no matter which weather it is and no matter which age they are in, just because they are considered untouchable during that period. I always thought why isn’t government doing anything to abolish this tradition of banishing women outside their house just because they are menstruating. I always thought that people there are not educated enough, they are not aware enough to let go of this tradition. But now as I am growing up and have started to see the world through much more mature perspective, I am starting to understand that this is not only about the lack of education and lack of awareness. This is something very deep rooted, a kind of lifestyle now and something that might take so many decades to be over it.
First let me talk about the society of Western Nepal, Where when a girl menstruates for the first time, they are kept in the hut for almost 14-15 days. They are not allowed to see or touch men and other people, not even their own brother, father or their family. After their first time, they are kept in the hut every month during their menstruation for almost 5-6 days. Every month staying outside your house, living in a hut that is extremely small and congested, where you have to sleep on top of pile of hays, with no blankets, pillows, and no matress. We as a person living in a place where we get to sleep every night in our luxurious bed, with warm blankets might find that hut and that tradition extremely inhuman and torturous.
But the women from those areas are okay with whatever that’s happening there. You might feel the pain when you are forced to experience something like this for once or twice in your life, but if this is the lifestyle, this is what you have been doing since you were a little girl, then this doesn’t hurt you anymore. They don’t take Chhaupadi as a bad thing as we do, it’s their passed on tradition, their grandmother, mother passed it on to them and now they are passing it to their children too.
Just imagine living in a hut, that’s barely 5 foot tall, and that’s barely 6 foot wide, imagine sleeping in that hut for 5 days, every month. You will sleep on top of hays, there’s barely a window where you get to breathe a fresh air from, you have a small door where you have to crouch and struggle to get in and out, you have no foot space and you need to sleep all curled up. There’s no proper lock on that tiny door, you might get raped anytime. There’s no cover for that tiny hole which is your window, from where snakes might slide in and bite you any moment. There’s no way to keep the hut warm so you have to lit fire inside just to be warm with equal risk of suffocating and not being able to breathe due to all the smoke that covers your hut. And if you’re a mother of a child who never leaves you, just imagine sleeping on a hut with those little souls, risking their life too. As painful and as torturous as it sounds, its a common lifestyle to those women, even if that means to invite your own death.
Almost every month we get hear the news about Chhaupadi in our national dailies. We can even find International medias having interest on this matter. Every year many women lose their life while staying in Chhaupadi. Some die due to snake bites, some die due to suffocation,some die due to cold and some even get victim of rape. Still, they are practicing all this, still it is affecting so many lives of the women and girls living in that society.
Last year central government of Nepal and local government of Western Nepal together worked on abolishing this tradition from those villages. They went there and educated women about all the negative aspects of this tradition, but women and the society didn’t care about all those things. Then the government went a step further and started demolishing all the menstrual huts of those villages. After demolishing those huts, many had thought that now all this will come to an end, but to their surprise, some women of those villages started sleeping under the open sky itself. Some even started to dance and shiver as if they were controlled by some supernatural power. They denied to enter into the house while they were menstruating. Later government even offered money to those women and households , but again result was not so positive.
But, I am a woman of City area, where there’s no Chhaugoth, no menstrual hut, where we are not sent to the small hut while we are menstruating. But the situation in the city is not so different than the Western part of Nepal. Fortunately or unfortunately there’s something mentioned about menstruation in the Hindu vedas. I have heard 100’s of version of the thing written in that veda. But people in our society and the people who are responsible to make people aware about those things written there are spreading negative meanings of everything. There are so many rumors about what vedas says about Menstruation and trust me, I know it doesn’t.
According to our society, women aren’t allowed to touch kitchen while they are menstruating, they cannot touch food, they cannot touch plants, they cannot touch or worship god, they cannot touch any male members and elders of the family and they aren’t allowed to touch or consume meats, fruits, Vegetables, they are kept seperate from all other family members, husband and wife cannot sleep together and many more that cannot be described and heard at all.
You all might think that women of city has not experienced Chhaupadi, but I say that Chhaupadi system is right there where the people have all of the above mentioned things in their mentality. Even in the city area, girls and women are not allowed to enter in the kitchen, they have their separate utensils, they have their separate corners, people don’t even let menstruating women sleep in the bed, they are not allowed near temples and worshipping place. People do not eat what they touch or cook, they are untouchable for the 5 days, every month.
May it be a village of Western Nepal where women are not allowed inside a house considering Untouchable or a city area where a women is kept in the corner of a room, not allowing to touch or do anything considering untouchable again, Women are considered impure while she’s on her period and that’s a tragedy!
Here, the main mistake that we have been doing to abolish this system for years now, In my opinion is that we have been dealing with the wrong section of people in a society. A woman who’s already in her 50’s has been practicing all that as a ritual for almost 35 years of her life now. All of a sudden if someone comes to her and asks her to stop it in the name of education and safety, she won’t understand it and she won’t be able to adapt it at all. She got it passed on by her mother, her mother got it from her mother. It’s hard to abolish a tradition overnight that has been passed on for decades now.
If we really want to stop it, then we must work with the junior group instead. Child always learns from what he sees his elders doing, if a child sees that his/her mothers are staying in the menstrual hut for 5 days every month or are treated untouchable and are kept in a part of a room, he/she is more likely to take it as a normal tradition and they are more likely to adapt it as their lifestyle too if not educated against it in their childhood itself. So we must educate and aware the upcoming generations to abolish this tradition by themselves. No one else can do it for them, until and unless they do it by themselves.
We cry about the first world problems, about not getting our food cravings fulfilled during our period while sleeping on a warm cozy bed, but there are women who aren’t even allowed inside their own house and are sleeping on a pile of hay, treated untouchable, not getting nutritional food, not being able to live normally like a human for almost 7 days, every month just because they bleed!
You can know more about Chhaupadi by clicking in links below:
- Chhaupadi In Nepal with english subtitles
- Chhaupadi – With English Subtitle
- Personal Experience of a women
While I was preparing this article, I came across a different feeling, I suddenly felt very low and extremely sad to realize how privileged we really are!
Chhaupadi is not actually what we see out here physically, it’s what within us, Inside our heart! Chhaupadi is the fear that the society gave us, the fear that our ancestors passed onto us! Until we find the way to demolish that fear, Chhaupadi will exist, it will exist within us.– Anjaliutters
Thank you for your taking out your time to read my article. This means a lot. Follow @anjaliutters to motivate me more if you haven’t already!!