Why: Death of Anita Chand, 16 years girl at Menstrual Hut in Nepal
I may be the first person who received the message of Anita’s incident outside of Baitadi. I received many calls and messages from national and international media and friends about it and they were interested to know the reason.
Before sharing the reason, let me explain the story:
Anita lived in Pancheswor Rural Municipality of Baitadi district, a hilly district of west Nepal. She was lived along with her mother in Baitadi and her brother and father were in India. She was at her 4th day of her menstruation. She slept at cowshed (menstrual hut). When she informed to her mother, mother informed to villagers and villagers informed to traditional healer (shaman) to treat her. He arrived about half an hour after. He was trying to clean the wound by the time she was shocked and died. She was studying in grade 9 and her school distributing the menstrual pad (market disposal pad) on free.
Here, two issues are overlapped; snake bite and discriminatory menstrual practice called Chhaupadi or menstrual hut.
Snake bites also have two perspectives.
- All snake bites cases are not dying e.g. in Dhangadi or Nepalgunaj or Chitwan because there are the good roads, transportation facilities including ambulance, trained health workers, facility of anti-venom injection for treatment and most importantly, the villagers are aware about the treatment of snake bite. They won’t wait or call shaman for treatment at all.
- Snake bites don’t have connection with menstruation. Many people thought because of smell of menstrual blood, snakes are attracted. Its myth indeed. Menstruating women are at the place of snakes where it searches its food e.g. rats. Most importantly, many boys and men also were beaten by snakes where they never menstruate. The Bollyhood Actor Salman Khan also was beaten by snake in 28 December 2021 and he survived because he got treatment in timely manner. Such many cases happened in Nepal as well among men.
Here, the state should take accountability to educate the people on snake bites where there is risks for it and also managed the other essential facilities.
Chhaupadi is a combined of two words Chhau- blood and Padi- being state thus it’s just a state of menstruating. Unfortunately, it was coined with bad practice and widely used it globally. It is because of national and international media and NGOs including me. I regret for it. Indeed, exclusion during menstruation is known as Chhaupadi over the time.
Chhaupadi is a visual form of menstrual discrimination. Means, menstruating girls/women are excluded and staying in separate hut called menstrual huts or chhaugoths or sheds. It is being used in few districts of west Nepal. In mountainous region of west Nepal, where is heavy snowing, they have separate room at the same house. Therefore, it depends on socio-economic condition. Whatever the name, in 8 December 2019, during first Dignified Menstruation Day, Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen, government of Nepal, announced to make menstrual huts free country and dismantle about 7000 huts. It was followed by a death of Parbati Buda, a young woman in Achham. Here, government tried to enforce the National Dignified Menstruation Policy 2017 and Menstrual Law 2017 as well.
Let me discuss about Chhaupadi again. Chhaupadi is exclusion from almost of everything what they have been doing during non-menstruating days, 25 days of month. It means, they have been following more than 40 types of menstrual restrictions related with menstruation, food, touch, mobility and participation. There, people have enough land so they construct the huts but in Kathmandu the land is expensive so they confined within a room or a corner or separate bed in same room etc. When they are excluding, the women from Kathmandu or east, follow at least more than dozens of restrictions regardless of their religion, region, education etc. such as not entering or cooking at kitchen, not performing any religious activities, hiding the menstrual products and clothes, no talk about menstruation etc. as like women who are practicing Chhaupadi. Such practices are not confined in Nepal but practice all over the globe at different names, forms and magnitude. Unfortunately, the global community is pointing to west Nepal and blaming to poverty and illiteracy or poor hygiene. Of course, there is thinner lining may associate but it is not an underlying cause. The underlying cause is FEAR.
The family, school, state (three layers of government), policy and everyone is creating fear directly and indirectly. The deep level of silence, ignorance is overlapped each other and make the menstrual practice is more complex, multifaceted and discriminatory. Such practice is in place for ages without questioning so the gravity of menstrual discrimination and its role for construction and shape on power and patriarchy is unexplored and heavily overlooked. All levels of government should work intensively on advocating according to the national dignified menstruation policy and menstrual law (2017). Unfortunately, it couldn’t happen and it was absolutely failure of government of Nepal.
It is not only a failure of Nepal government but also failure of donors and academia because Nepal’s development and human rights works are mostly guided by external funds. Donors and academia mostly focused on managing menstrual blood or menstrual products or infrastructure. Such menstrual management is important but not address the all forms of discriminatory practices including fear. Here, Anita had used the market menstrual pad but she died because she had a fear that her family god would get angry if she would sleep on same place or touch her house. In other hand, such pad is not Dignified Menstruation friendly pad at all.
In this case, UN also failed because UN doesn’t acknowledge as forms of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) as it defined in 1993. The sets of menstrual practices are discriminatory and fall under the category of physical, sexual, emotional and denial of resources and services in multiple times. There is a violation of human rights in multiple times too. Sadly, UN undermined the scope of menstrual discrimination which is practicing globally and more than half of the population of this planet are living in undignified conditions due to this.
At last, the media also failed. For Nepal’s case, international media misinterpreted about the menstrual practice. Almost all media focused on free products, deduction of tax, or infrastructure but not spell the urgency of dismantling of varieties of menstrual discrimination. If any menstrual talk, put the `dignity’ at center, it liberates everyone including non-menstruators to live just and equal planet.
Key words: #Chhauapdi, #MenstrualHut, #periodhut, #Menstruation, #MesnrtualDiscrimination, #DignifiedMenstruation