A 16-year-old girl from Nepal, Anita Chand, has tragically lost her life due to the illegal and deeply entrenched practice of chhaupadi. This practice, which forces menstruating women to isolate themselves in huts, reflects outdated beliefs and poses serious risks to their safety and well-being. Despite legal prohibitions and past efforts to eradicate it, chhaupadi continues to persist, shedding light on the challenges of eliminating this harmful tradition.
Chhaupadi: A Lethal Tradition: Chhaupadi is rooted in the age-old notion that menstruating women are impure and must be secluded during their periods. Women are prohibited from engaging in various activities and are often relegated to isolation in “period huts.” Despite being outlawed in 2005, the practice remains prevalent, particularly in western Nepal. Anita Chand’s recent death as a result of a snake bite while sleeping in a hut has reignited concerns about the dangers posed by chhaupadi.
Erosion of Progress: Anita Chand’s death marks the first reported fatality from chhaupadi since 2019. Despite efforts to curb the practice and improve awareness, progress seems to be eroding. Campaigners fear that the COVID-19 pandemic diverted attention and resources away from addressing chhaupadi, leading to a resurgence of the practice. Thousands of period huts that were previously destroyed have started to be rebuilt, underscoring the need for sustained efforts against this tradition.
Legal Measures and Challenges: Chhaupadi was criminalized with penalties including imprisonment and fines. However, implementation of these measures remains inadequate, allowing the practice to persist. While the government introduced initiatives such as distributing free sanitary pads to schoolgirls, activists argue that more comprehensive actions are needed. The lack of effective enforcement and awareness campaigns has hindered the eradication of chhaupadi.
Rekindling the Fight Against Chhaupadi: Anita Chand’s tragic death serves as a stark reminder of the urgency to address and eliminate the dangers posed by chhaupadi. To prevent further lives from being lost, activists stress the need for renewed efforts, including sustained awareness campaigns, strict enforcement of existing laws, and comprehensive educational initiatives. It is essential to engage communities, religious leaders, and policymakers to collectively combat this harmful practice.
The tragic death of Anita Chand sheds light on the persisting dangers of chhaupadi, an outdated practice that poses serious risks to the lives and well-being of menstruating women in Nepal. While legal measures were introduced to combat this practice, challenges in implementation and awareness have allowed it to continue. To truly eliminate chhaupadi, comprehensive efforts that engage communities, religious leaders, and policymakers are necessary. Anita Chand’s untimely demise serves as a call to action to rekindle the fight against this harmful tradition and ensure a safer and more equitable future for all women in Nepal.