Women in Nepal Struggle to Survive After Being Sent to Dangerous ‘Menstruation Huts’

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Governments around the world are moving toward equality of the sexes, better understanding of human functions, and teaching science-based sex education, but in some rural areas of mid-western Nepal, girls and women are still forced to spend their periods in unsafe “menstruation huts.”

More than one person has suffocated after lighting fires inside in an attempt to keep warm, even though the practice of isolating women during their periods was outlawed in Nepal in 2018.

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In parts of western Nepal, woman are banished to chhaupadi huts like this one in the village of Pali when they get their periods. They are considered polluted, even toxic, and an oppressive regime has evolved around this taboo — including the construction of a separate hut for menstruating women to sleep in. Some of the spaces are as small as a closet, with walls made of mud or rock. Each year, at least one woman or girl — often more — dies in these huts, from exposure to the cold, smoke inhalation or attacks by animals. The practice, which has been going on for hundreds of years, is called chhaupadi, from Nepali words that mean someone who bears an impurity. Every evening, across rippled green hills, hundreds of menstruating women and girls trudge out of their houses into #chhaupadi huts. But now, the Nepali government and advocates for women are trying to end the practice. Starting in August, it will be a crime to force a menstruating woman into seclusion, punishable by up to 3 months in jail. But it isn't clear whether the new law will make a dent in the tradition. @taratwphoto took this photo of 13-year-old Khagishara BK sitting inside a chhaupadi hut. Visit the link in profile to read more.

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New research estimates that 77% of girls living in the area are still subjected to the dangerous practice, known as chhaupadi, that requires women to sleep in specially built chhau huts in order to separate their “impurities” from the rest of the home. Wealthier girls from urban households were less likely to practice chhaupadi, but it is not unheard of.

These numbers are based on interviews with 400 adolescent girls, as well as a focus group of women between the ages of 25 and 45. No men took part because of the stigma of the subject.

Though all of the girls reported fears about animal bites, snakes, stranger attacks, and many other dangers, it seems the practice is “largely enforced by elders within their family and community, including mothers, grandmothers, and other senior women,” wrote the authors in the published article.

“Underpinning most of their experiences were strong taboos and stigma. Girls frequently reported not being permitted to touch male family members, attend temple, join in celebrations, cook or enter their kitchens, eat many normal foods (such as dairy products), or sleep in their own bed.”

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Hi there, everyone! This is Maria Contreras Coll (@mariacontrerascoll). I'm a documentary photographer from Barcelona, Spain. This week, I'll be sharing my project "Journey To Impurity", about the fight against menstrual restrictions in Nepal. Stay tunned! _ The first menstruation is a turning point for every young woman in the world. In Nepal, and according to Hindusim, this entry into adulthood is tied to a loss of purity. In some rural areas, menstrual women are exiled for a week, a practice known as Chhaupadi Partha. Dozen of women and girls have died in recent years from following this tradition. Although these restrictions have existed for decades, Nepali society is changing. In Kathmandu, a new generation of young people is reinventing traditions, making them their own. Some women from rural areas have started to question these practices and becoming activists. A growing number of them lead organizations and are empowering your girls in rural areas and teaching them that they can also invent their own rules. . Photographer: Maria Contreras Coll @mariacontrerascoll #photojournalist #photojournalism #documentaryphotographer #documentaryphotography #nepal #womenempowerement #photographyaroundtheworld #everydayasia #chhaupadi #journeytoimpurity

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Community organizers and non-governmental organizations struggle to go beyond sanitation and hygiene concerns and really change the stigma associated with periods, which many consider to be a human rights issue. Some smaller villages are giving monetary rewards to women who refuse to practice chhaupadi, and an arrest was recently made after a woman died while isolated in a hut.

Study author Jennifer Thompson told IFLScience that we have a long way to go.

“There also needs to be a clearer movement from the human rights community on chhaupadi and menstrual taboos more generally. These will all help to move menstruation from being framed as solely an issue of sanitation, to one which is intimately connected with women and girls’ rights, safety, security, and citizenship more broadly.”

The study was small but telling, and the authors think it proves that education is needed all over the country – and even the world.

“Our study in Nepal highlighted a broad range of issues around menstruation beyond hygiene – questions of security, safety, stigma, taboo, and policy ownership were all central. Reframing menstruation as a question of rights can help to bring these various facets under one clear umbrella.”

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Last week, a mother and her two children died in Nepal after the woman was sent to an isolated hut because she had her period. @rachaelkrish explains why this happened. Follow @world for more stories like this. – #woman #women #girl #girls #period #periods #menstruation #periodlife #menstruationmatters #chhaupadi #hut #shed #hindu #hinduism #religion #superstition #myth #curse #victim #rip #building #nepal #nepalese #india #southasia #temples #impure #purity

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As women who live in the Western world, it can be hard to imagine a world where women and girls are still ostracized for experiencing a normal and healthy function of life, but this study and others like it can be a reminder that not everyone lives as we do – and for us to ask ourselves what we can do to help change that.