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Nepal: Ending menstruation banishment only a start

Nepal: Ending menstruation banishment only a start
From Al Jazeera - August 12, 2017

Last month, when 19-year-old Tulasi Shahi died of a snake bite in west Nepal, social media went abuzz because international media started covering her tragic death.

Yet a few weeks earlier, when another young woman died in similar circumstances, the news did not even come out.

Both victims had been sent to "chhaupadi", an outhouse where menstruating women are banished to for five days a month.

Now finally some good news has come. On Wednesday, parliament criminalised chhaupadi. Girls and women will be able to report to the police if they are made to sleep in those dank, dark cells.

But will they report on their fathers, mothers, husbands or in-laws?

READ MORE: Nepal criminalises isolation of menstruating women

And even if they do, will their families just pay the $29 fine and still make the women sleep in the huts?

When Tulasi died, some reporters were shocked that her parents said they would still follow the archaic custom.

This does not surprise me at all. Whenever I have been to far west Nepal, where these customs exist, I have often seen women treated worse than animals.

I have met women who have travelled to India to determine the sex of their child, so that female babies would be terminated.

'Burdens'

I have met girls as young as 14 lamenting that their education will be curtailed soon when they are married off. I have heard them describing themselves as "burdens" to their families.

The menstruation huts are an expression of this larger attitude. In these areas, locals believe that tigers will attack their cattle if menstruating women are allowed to inside their house.

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