Nepal Parliament passes law to criminalise isolation of women during menstruation

In a major boost to liberalization in the country, the Parliament of Nepal has passed a new law to criminalise an ancient Hindu practice where menstruating woman was banished from home. As a part of the common practice called ‘chhaupadi’ women were banished from home during menstruation and during childbirth.

As reported by Al Jazeera, the law, passed with unanimous votes in the Nepal Parliament reads, “A woman during her menstruation or post-natal state should not be kept in chhaupadi or treated with any kind of similar discrimination or untouchable and inhuman behaviour.”

Set to come in effect in a year’s time, the new law imposes a prohibition on the practice and stipulates a jail term of three months or a fine of Rs 3000 or both for anyone forcing a woman to follow the custom.

Mohna Ansari, a member of national human rights commission was quoted by Al Jazeera saying, “The law gives an open space for women to come forward if they are forced to follow the practice. It is a custom that makes women feel isolated and puts psychological pressure. Supreme court ruled against chhaupadi 12 years ago, but it was not effective because it issued just guidelines. But it also directed that in case the guidelines were ineffective, there should have been a law passed against chhaupadi, so that’s what happened now.”

However, some women’s rights activists still stay sceptical about the implementation of the law and terms the law as unenforceable as the ancient tradition is deeply attached with the beliefs of the people of the country.

Speaking to AFP, women’s rights activist Pema Lhaki said, “It’s a fallacy that it’s men who make the woman do this. Yes, Nepal’s patriarchal society plays a part, but it’s the women who make themselves follow chhaupadi. They need to understand the root cause, have strategic interventions and then wait a generation.”

Menstruation being considered impure among many communities of Nepal, women during their periods and after childbirth are forced to sleep in huts called ‘chhau goth’ and are also not allowed to touch food, religious icons, cattle or men. There had been reports of deaths in Nepal, caused while a woman had been sent to stay in huts, away from home.

By: Priyam Mukhopadhyay

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