As a Nepali woman, I am ashamed to make this confession.
For a week after my first period, I was kept in a dark room and not allowed to see any male relative. After I revolted, I was allowed to watch television from behind the curtains-which was in a common room of our joint family of 14.
In our culture, menstruation is un-clean and shameful. It is something to be kept off polite society. To instill that shame young girls are forced into a dark room for a week after their first period. You miss school, friends, social life-so that you understand, fair and clear that from now on you are to be ashamed of your body and for being a woman.
After facing the horror for the first time, you face a milder version every month. Cannot enter kitchen, prayer room, temple, common areas of the home or the garden. Cannot touch water or water plants-menstruating woman is unclean and her touch could kill a plant, it is believed.
I grew up in this culture and faced this humiliation. But what I went through is nothing compared to what happens in numerous Nepali villages.
Nilima Raut with Shubhi Tandon of Women News Network report on practice of chaupadi, where mensurating woman is forced to live in a shed, at a distance from her home.
“Today the human rights crime of chhaupadi continues with impunity in numerous locations, especially rural Nepal where poverty is the norm. Extreme and dangerous versions of the ritual still exist in the districts of Chitwan, Kailali, Baitadi, Darchula, Achham, Doti, Bajhang, Dadeldura and Kanchanpur.
Often given only a small area of straw grass to sleep on and little to no blanket, girls and women who have been banished to outside sheds during the winter months can reach a state of critical medical emergency. Hypothermia during winter months is a stark and real possibility.”
In Kathmandu and cities around Nepal, this practice of discriminating against mensurating women is on a decline, which gives hope that one day hopefully the entire country will get rid of this shameful tradition.