Menstruation huts, exile still persist in Nepal
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Authorities are knocking down tiny huts in western Nepal where women have been exiled during menstruation and exposed to cold weather and threats from animals and even sexual assaults.
Government officials accompanied by police officers and local politicians were going to villages and towns in Kanchanpur district, tearing down the sheds mostly made of mud walls and covered by straw roofs, Chief District Officer Sushil Baidhya said Friday.
The custom of exiling menstruating women has persisted in parts of west Nepal though the Supreme Court banned it in 2005.
A new law criminalized it last year, with violators who force women into exile facing up to three months in prison or a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees ($26).
Many menstruating women are still forced to shelter in huts or cow sheds until their cycle ends.
The custom — called “Chhaupadi” — continues in many parts of the majority Hindu Himalayan country, especially in the western hills.
In the isolated, unhygienic or insecure huts and sheds, women can face bitter cold, illness, wild animals and the possibility of sexual assaults.
Several women and girls have died during their exile. A major cause of the deaths is smoke inhalation because they lit a fire to keep warm in the tiny huts in hilly or mountainous areas.
Menstruation hut, Wikipedia
A menstruation hut is a place of seclusion or isolation used by certain cultures with strong menstrual taboos. The same or a similar structure may be used for childbirth and postpartum confinement, based on beliefs around ritual impurity.
These huts are usually built near the family home, have small doors, and are often dilapidated, with poor sanitation and ventilation, and no windows.
The Nepali version, the Chhaupadi, is probably the best-known example, but cultural attitudes towards menstruation around the world mean that these huts exist, or existed until recently, in other places as well.
The use of menstrual huts continues to be the cause of death, from exposure, dehydration, snake bite, smoke inhalation, and so on. The use of these huts is illegal in some places.
Use in various cultures
According to the tradition of chhaupadi, Hindu women in western Nepal are forced to reside in a small hut, called a Chhau Goth, for 5 days during menstruation.
However, the tradition requires those menstruating for the first time to stay in the hut for at least 14 days. In some communities, these huts may also be used by pregnant women to deliver babies.
The huts may be made of mud and stones and may have roofs made of grass. Normally, they do not have windows, and the women must sleep on straw on the floor covering themselves with a thin blanket.
In a Nepali survey around 2017, one district with around 49,000 households had over 500 of these huts. The practice of using menstruation huts was made illegal in 2005 by Nepal’s supreme court.
During their first menstruation, young Aborigine women in Australia live in menstruation huts built by their mother. After her period ends, she bathes in the river and the hut is burned down.