A new bill has been passed in Nepal’s parliament to address the issues of women safety, by strengthening the edict against dowry payments for marriage, the rituals of exiling women during their menstruation, and the threatening rates of acid attacks.
Once enacted, from August 2018, the new law brings the defaulters under the legal jurisdiction. The punishment can be up to three months of imprisonment or a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees, or about $29.
Chhaupadi, the ancient Hindu taboo, considers women as impure during their menstrual period and prohibits them to participate in regular family activities until the cycle ends. This practice was banned a decade ago but no legal punishment was implemented.
However, it remained as a common practice, mostly in the Hindu Himalayan country and the western hills, that women are forced to take shelters in unhygienic and unsecured places, such as cattle huts, during menstruating. This condition makes them vulnerable to chronic diseases such as flu and infections and some of them face attacks by wild animals.[caption id="attachment_152020" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Chhaupadi, the ancient Hindu taboo, was banned a decade ago but no legal punishment was implemented AFP[/caption]
Lawmaker Krishna Bhakta Pokhrel, a member of the committee that drafted the bill said, “People will be discouraged to follow this discriminatory custom due to fear of punishment”.
On the other hand, a female parliamentarian from the far-western district of Doti, where menstrual exile is still practiced, called for government investment in educating women on good hygiene addressing the fact that the legislation passed Wednesday alone would not be enough without the awareness of people.
“Fear of punishment will not stop people from following this custom who think women are impure during menstruation,” Gauri Kumari Oli told the Associated Press on Thursday. “The government and non-governmental agencies should start to do more to raise awareness.”
She herself was made to observe the custom, albeit not so strictly, she said.
“Like it happens elsewhere in Nepal, I was asked not to enter inside the temple or the kitchen,” she said. “But I never had to go to sleep in shed.
The legislation was part of an ongoing effort to improve the country’s laws, and also criminalizes other deep-rooted customs that harm women, including slavery, acid attacks and the dowry system, by which a woman’s family must secure her marriage prospects by paying the groom and his family.