Once a month, many women and girls in Nepal are not allowed to enter their home. Because during their menstrual periods they are regarded as dirty, unclean, women during this time have to life in a so-called “menstruation hut” for 5-7 days. A small hut far away from the other people. The stall is often used as well. Here she must remain, shunned by the other villagers. The winters are often hard, the huts do not offer protection from the cold. Also poisonous and wild animals are not rare in the Himalayan mountains.

The monthly bleeding is symbolically very charged: if the women had free access to water sources, they would dry out. If they touch fruit, it might fall off before it is ripe. If they touch people and violate the rules, the gods might be angered. The consequences would, according to the legend, be devastating for the whole environment: People die sooner, the cattle are dying or the harvest is destroyed. Some girls also report, that during their period they are not allowed to touch books or look into the mirror.

This practice is called Chhaupadi, comes from Hinduism and means “untouchable being”. Often women and girls die in their isolation, through snake bites, undercooling or heavy bleeding. To keep warm, some ignite a small fire and stifle of smoke. The huts are often very remote and unsafe. The danger of being raped is high.

The influence of Chhaupadi has already declined in parts of the country. In the East traditions no longer have such a strong influence on people. Even if many women and girls no longer have to spend their nights in the menstrual hut, the subject is still a taboo. A large number of schools do not have sheltered toilets and washing facilities for girls. Because of the social stigma, they do not want anyone to know about their period. That is why they do not go to school for a week. In addition, girls have many household tasks: in the morning, many cook for the whole family or feed the animals before they can start their way to school. In these circumstances, the school presents a much greater challenge to them than to boys of the same age.

Chhaupadi has been officially banned since 2005. However, no steps have been taken to actively implement the law nor impose penalties for those who violate it. The practice is deeply rooted in society, in Nepalese customs, in religion. Since 2017, the punishment has now amounted to 3,000 rupees (about 25 euros) and three months imprisonment. It will, however, take some time before it arrives in peoples’ heads.

Reports about Chhaupadi:

Nepal stellt Verbannung von Frauen während der Menstruation unter Strafe – Süddeutsche Zeitung

Nepali ‘menstruation hut’ ritual claims life of teenage girl – CNN

Weil sie eine Frau ist – Süddeutsche Zeitung

Aktivistinnen zerstören Menstruations-Hütten – Der Standard

In Nepal werden Frauen während ihrer Menstruation verbannt – Vice Broadly