We came across this picture on social media recently. The notice posted at a Puja Samagri Bhandar (shop selling prayer accessories) reads, “Women on their periods are requested not to touch anything”.
Just in case you don’t know about the practice, here are some basics: ‘Chhaupadi’ is an old tradition in Nepal that was banned by law in 2005 but is still commonly practiced in various, especially rural, parts of Nepal. It is practiced even in urban areas in some forms. Period in Nepal is treated as something impure, dirty and contaminating. The girls on their periods are alienated and are forced into social restrictions. They are not allowed to enter the kitchen, they can’t touch people and various things that others use and in some rural areas, they are forced to sleep in makeshift sheds.
After the details on the basics, here’s what we have to say about the tradition, “It’s plain fucked-up” and we do have some points to justify our statement. Here:
1. It may look like it’s not about disrespecting women and it’s just our culture that we got to follow. But seriously, don’t you really think that it’s kind of an oppression when you isolate a woman when she needs your attention and care the most and treat her like a suicide bomber?
2. Now about the sanskar and parampara (culture and tradition) part; we would like to remind you that something similar used to be said about the ‘Sati’ practice as well in which a widow had to immolate herself on her husband’s pyre until the practice was banned in 1920. We’re pretty sure what most of you are thinking about right now, “Dude, did you just compare Chhaupadi with Sati? The latter involved deaths but the former doesn’t.” If you did think about the same, think again. There have been various instances when girls have died following the Chhaupadi practice, the most recent one being the death of a 15-year-old Roshani Tiruwa in Achham.
3. Some of you might even say that it’s just a matter of four days every month and there’s nothing to ‘over-react’ about. According to WebMD, women stop menstruating at different times, but most women stop in their 50s. Now, we’re not very good at math, but we will still try some calculations: if a woman menstruates between the ages of 14 to 50, she menstruates for 36 years. With four days every month, she menstruates for 48 days in a year; and hence, 1,728 days in 36 years which is around 4 years and 7 months in her lifetime. Wow! And you think isolating her for 4 years and 7 months is not a big deal?
4. Many of you might even think that as the notice was posted outside a Puja Samagri Bhandar, it’s fair enough as the store has stuff used to worship gods and the ‘untouchables’ should not touch them. Hmm! Now, according to a HuffPost article, there are 33 million gods and goddesses in Hinduism; which simply means that everything around us can be interpreted as some form of god. Like even the most basic things; water is Jal Deuta, fire is Agni Deuta, wind is Vayu Deuta, sun is Surya Deuta, books are Saraswati Mata, money is Laxmi Mata, many animals are different forms of some gods, and so on and on and on. So, do you really think that a menstruating woman should be kept away from almost everything that exist in this world?
5. What actually is menstruation and why is it not the most ‘dangerous’ thing on earth? According to Women’s Health, “Menstruation is a woman’s monthly bleeding. When you menstruate, your body sheds the lining of the uterus. Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix and passes out of the body through the vagina”. That’s it guys, that’s it. It doesn’t happen because of some evil monsters and demons. It’s just a natural process and if it didn’t exist, we wouldn’t exist in this world either. It’s that simple.
We’re absolutely not against our cultures and tradition. We love them, or at least most of them. We do believe that they keep every Nepali, no matter which corner of Nepal or even the globe they reside in, united. But that doesn’t mean that every practice that may have worked decades or even centuries ago must be practiced today as well. World is changing and so is the way people live their lives; and we have to adjust according to the new changes. Some change won’t harm our beautiful culture.