In Collaboration with:

GOVERNMENT OF NEPAL

Technical Assistance:

EUROPEAN UNION

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Phone : +977-96-410413 /14 / 15
Fax: +977-96-410415

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Phone: +977-1-5550628,5543301
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Copyright © 2019 Rural Village Water Resources Management Project

Menstruating is dangerous business for women in Far- and Mid Western Nepal

Because of superstitions related to menstruation, life for women in the Far- and Mid Western region of Nepal is often painful and dangerous. Every year many women who are confined to sleeping in separate goths or animal sheds during their menstrual period die due to snakebite, suffocation or animal attack.

 

There is no dignity for women staying in the sheds - they have to live like animals, and sometimes even live with animals.

 

RVWRMP has been working against the practice for more than ten years and many great achievements have been made.

 

But sadly there seems to be no end to the tragedies. During the last 8 months we have witnessed many young girls and women lose their lives because of superstitions against women in a very patriarchal society. According to our information, from November 2016 until mid-July this year, five women have died and one woman was injured while kept isolated during periods.

Here are the cases:

 

Achham, 19 November 2016, suffocation

The first victim during this time period is Dambara a 26-year-old woman from Achham. Her body was found on the 19th November - the cause of death was suffocation, apparently from lighting a fire inside the shed to keep warm.[1]

 

Achham, 18 December 2016, suffocation

The youngest of the victims had hardly had periods for long when falling victim to the discriminatory practice. Roshani was only 15-years old when on December 18th 2016 she had her dinner and went to sleep in the chhau-shed. To keep herself warm she lit a fire in the tiny mud hut. Roshani's father found her body the next morning. She died from suffocation after inhaling smoke. A week earlier her mother had been rushed to the hospital because of suffocation due to smoke inhalation in the shed.[2]

 

 

 

Baitadi, 1st June 2017, leopard attack

In Baitadi a 40–year-old mother Gauri was sleeping in the cowshed with her 17 year-old daughter. While sleeping a leopard broke through the door and attacked them. Neighbours came to the rescue and managed to save the mother and daughter from the leopard. The mother had injured her leg and was brought to Melauli hospital for primary care. Luckily, both mother and daughter survived.[3]

In this area of Baitadi, 22 people have been killed in the past five years due to leopard attacks. Most of them have been women and children.[4]

 

Dailekh, 9th July 2017, snakebite

19-year-old Tulsi from Dailekh, was sleeping in the chhau-shed when she was bitten by a snake. The next morning she was taken to Dullu hospital by her parents, but she died on the way to the hospital. [5] She was sleeping in a separate chhau-shed some 100 meters from the house. This area had already been declared "Chhau-hut Free" three years ago, but now 257 chhau-huts have re-emerged. In this area the chhau-period (when girls and women must stay outside their home) lasts for seven days (longer than the normal 4-5 days). Tulsi was not sleeping in a separate hut, but downstairs of her house on a wooden plank where she was exposed to snakes and cold. (See picture below). [6]

 

 

 

Dailekh, 22nd May 2017, snakebite

Another snakebite death has gone widely unreported. The Women's Development Officer of Dailekh, Anita Gyawali stated that only after Tulsi's death, people started talking about another death that had happened a month and a half earlier when 16-year-old Lal Sara died of snakebite while staying in the chhau-shed. Gyawali said that the case was never discussed anywhere, although she came from the same area as Tulsi. Read more about the incident here.

 

Dadeldhura, 14th July 2017, snakebite

In mid-July another death happened in Dadeldhura. A 16-year-old girl from Dadeldhura, was studying in grade 10. According to local sources her parents told that she had her period and was staying in a goatshed (baithak) of her house. Around 3 am she told her parents she believed she had been bitten by a snake. But because no snake was found the matter was not taken seriously. Her condition started getting worse and her parents submitted her to the Sub Regional Hospital in Dadeldhura around 12 noon. By that time she had become unconscious and half an hour later she was declared dead.  A police inquiry is still running. The local news reported her death, but no connection to chhaupadi tradition has officially been made.

 

These are the chhaupadi related death cases and injuries that have been reported in the media or have come to RVWRMP's knowledge. It is reasonable to assume that there are many more cases where the death has not officially been linked to chhaupadi. In some cases, the link between death and chhaupadi practice cannot be proven, such as when women are dying from pneumonia, diarrhoea or respiratory tract infections due to cold, smoky and unhygienic conditions in the chhau-sheds.

 

In addition, sexual harassment that occurs when women are isolated in the sheds mostly goes unreported for the sake of the woman's reputation.

 

In addition to these, another group of victims is newborn babies. It is hard to prove the practice is causing death. Yet, many babies are dying from pneumonia, diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections, due to cold, smoky and unhygienic conditions while staying in the shed for the first 9-11 days of their lives (during the birth and the mother's post-natal period). In Bajura district alone 69 newborns died last year and 83 babies died the previous year within 28 days from birth.  According to Rugam Thapa at District Health Office, the data shows that most of the babies died while staying in chhau-shed.[7]

 

How many more victims will this tradition take?

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/chhaupadi-takes-toll-women-achham/

[2] http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/12/20/506306964/15-year-old-girl-found-dead-in-a-menstrual-hut-in-nepal and

[3] http://sidharekha.com/2017/06/

[4] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/four-year-old-child-killed-baitadi-leopard-attack/

[5] http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/07/10/536483652/banished-to-a-menstrual-shed-a-teen-in-nepal-is-bitten-by-a-snake-and-dies

[6] RVRMP field coordinator Chakra Bhandari, Dailekh

[7] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/newborns-battle-survive-sheds/

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