In order to make the lives of women more safer, Nepal’s parliament has passed a bill to ensure women safety by strengthening laws against acid attacks along with the ancient Hindu customs of demanding dowry payments for marriage and exiling women during their menstruating days.
The new law goes into effect in August 2018, and anyone who violates the law and forces women into exile, will face punishment of up to three months in jail or a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees, or about $29.
The women who are menstruating are still forced to leave their homes and take shelter in unhygienic or insecure huts or cow sheds until their cycle completes, though the practice — called Chhaupadi — was a decade ago actually outlawed. But in the absence of any assigned penalties, the custom continued to remain in practice in many parts of the majority Hindu Himalayan country, especially in the western hills. When the women are exiled in isolation, some face bitter cold or attacks by wild animals. Unclean conditions can also lead to infections.
Krishna Bhakta Pokhrel, one of the lawmakers from the committee that drafted the law said, “People will be discouraged to follow this custom which is so discriminatory toward women due to fear of punishment” .
But as per a female parliamentarian from the far-western district of Doti, where the practise of menstrual exile is still followed said, the said legislation passed on Wednesday alone would not suffice, the government should also invest towards educating women on good hygiene.
“Fear of punishment will not deter people from following this custom according to whom women are impure during the period of menstruation,” Gauri Kumari Oli told the Associated Press. “The government and non-governmental agencies should start doing more in order to raise awareness.”
She herself was made to observe this discriminatory custom, albeit not so strictly, she said.
“As it happens elsewhere in Nepal, I too was asked not to enter inside the temple or the kitchen, But I never had to go to sleep in shed,”she said.
Nepal has been making efforts to improve the country’s laws from a long time and this law was part of this ongoing effort which also criminalises 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.