What happens when old practices surrounding periods still take place?
What are some age old practices or beliefs surrounding menstruation that you have heard of? More than likely, the effects of these practices and beliefs are harmful to the minds and bodies of women and young girls across the globe. The horrifying truth is that even though we are in the 21st century, a lot of countries around the world are still practicing harmful and even deadly “traditions” surrounding menstruation. For one 21-year-old woman in Nepal, her life was cute short due to a practice called chhaupadi. This practice is traditional in Nepal and has been around for years. Women and girls are banished to an isolated hut during menstruation because they are thought to be “impure”. It is an illegal practice, but for women that live in remote villages, it's still an ongoing practice.
According to reports surrounding the investigation of the young woman’s death, she lit a fire in the windowless hut to stay warm which makes smoke inhalation and asphyxiation a possible cause of her death. In these types of remote villages where women are isolated to huts, the community practices a time of “untouchability” for women. The women in these villages are forbidden from touching other people and objects and required to live away from the community until they are no longer on their period.
How do you think practices like chhaupadi affect the physical and mental health of women in countries across the world?
According to a study, chhaupadi is considered to be a public health risk and crisis for menstruating women. Women are treated like they have a contagious illness and caste into social isolation for a natural bodily function. “Temporarily living in an unhygienic livestock shed or traditional shed increases the likelihood of infection, dehydration, hypothermia and diarrhea.” It may seem impossible to fathom that somewhere women are actually dying because of the lack of knowledge that surrounds menstruation because it’s not a visible issue in the U.S., but for women in countries like Nepal, these practices continue to cause them great harm.
“The mental health of women and young girls is impacted by feelings of abandonment, insecurity, guilt and humiliation for being thought of as impure and untouchable.” This story, though hard to swallow, is an immense reason why the conversation surrounding the destigmatization of menstruation should continue to take place all across the world until we can finally say that things have changed. Though the Nepal Supreme Court banned practices like chhaupadi in 2005, it still made it tough for one like to completely eradicate this practice and ones like it due to the deeply rooted and uneducated beliefs about menstruation.
It is reported that as of 2017, the Nepali Parliament enacted a law that criminalized harmful practices after three publicized deaths, but with only a meager fine to pay, no true change took place. Unfortunately, one young woman lost her life this week for simply being a woman. We must continue to work together to change the narrative!
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