2017 - 2018
The first menstruation is a turning point for every young woman in the world. In Nepal, this entry into adulthood is tied to a loss of purity. According to the Hindu faith, it is seen as a punishment for all women. In rural areas, menstrual women are exiled for a week, a practice known as Chhaupadi Partha. Some are forced to live among the wild stock to please the gods. When they are on their period they are not allowed to enter their houses, visit the temples or cook. Sometimes, they are not even allowed to look or talk to any male relative.
This year, Gauri Kumari Bayak, a 23-year-old woman, was found dead on a menstrual hut. Dozens of women and girls have died in recent years from following this tradition, despite the practice being banned by the Supreme Court in 2005. Women are constantly at risk of being bitten by snakes or choking from the fumes in the small, non-ventilated huts.
Although these restrictions have existed for decades, Nepali society is changing rapidly, with Western influence being brought by widespread access to new technologies, which are steadily becoming more and more present in the everyday lives of its inhabitants. In August 2017, for the first time in the history, the country criminalized the isolation of the menstrual women with a three-month jail sentence or a 3,000 rupee fine ($30), or both, for anyone that forces a woman to follow the custom.
In Kathmandu, a new generation of young people is reinventing traditions, making them their own. Some women from rural areas have started to question these practices and becoming activists. A growing number of them lead organizations and are empowering young girls in rural areas and teaching them about hygiene. Last May, the Menstrual Hygiene Day was celebrated for the first time with the theme ‘Education about menstruation changes everything’. "Since I was a kid I have it clear, I was not going to go to the hut to sleep as my mother and sisters", says Radha Paudel, one of the first Menstrual Activists of Nepal and author. "I'm sure the solution is in the education and in the younger minds, and that step by step we're going to achieve what we are dreaming of".