Nepal Makes the Custom of Banishing Women During Their Periods a Criminal Offense

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A 13-year-old Nepalese villager, Sarswati Biswo Karma, sits inside a “Chhaupadi house.” Photo: Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

In early July, an 18-year-old Nepalese woman died from a snake bite sustained while she was sleeping in her uncle’s hut. That’s where she went whenever she was on her period, in accordance with the Hindu tradition of Chhaupadi, in which menstruating women are banished from their families. Following her death — and the death of a 15-year-old girl in December — Nepal has passed a law criminalizing the practice.

According to the Guardian, under the new law — which was part of a bill designed to improve women’s safety in the country — anyone enforcing Chhaupadi will be fined 3,000 Nepalese rupees and will face a jail sentence of up to three months. But before cracking down on the custom, lawmakers will conduct a “social campaign” to make sure everyone knows about the new law.

Although legislation is an important first step, Tom Palakudiyil, the director of WaterAid in South Asia, told the Guardian that it’s a superficial solution to a deeper problem.

“Making chhaupadi a criminal act on its own may not be enough to prevent women and girls being banished,” he said. “The tradition is deeply entrenched in the culture of many communities, so we need to understand and address the root cause to bring about sustainable change.”

Meanwhile, the head of the National Alliance of Women’s Human Rights Defenders called on local activists to report instances of Chhaupadi. “Such vigilance will force the government to strictly enforce the law,” she said.

Nepal Criminalizes Custom of Exiling Women on Their Periods