Huts for menstrual exile brought down, women stay inside house during periods
Sher Bahadur Thapa
Surkhet, 23 January (2020) – About 10 days ago Barahatal Rural Municipality in Surkhet district in mid-western Nepal organized Masto (native god) worship ceremony.
On that occasion a local woman Sirjana Karki asked the shaman, “The government has brought down chaau goth (huts for menstrual exile). It does not allow us to stay in the huts whereas Masto does not permit us to live inside the house. Where do we go?”
All the shamans in the village were attending the ceremony. Karki seized the opportunity to ask them where menstruating women could stay.
One of the shamans replied, “Stay in a room inside the house and don’t go to the prayer room”
Menstruating women in mid-western and far-western Nepal have been traditionally forced to stay in narrow huts since long. But the government has been tearing down the huts to break the traditional belief and is taking action against anyone who forces women to go to chhau huts.
This campaign, however, put women in limbo. But they are feeling comfortable after shamans allowed them to stay inside the house during periods.
Mana BK of Aathbis Municipality in Dailekh district stays in cowshed after policemen tore down the chhau huts. “We are afraid of Devata (god). We have been following the tradition out of the fear of the god,” BK said.
“The government destroyed huts but we have not cast out chhau tradition from our minds.”
Sita Baduwal of Panchapuri Municipality-10 said that the government has torn down chhau huts but has not raised awareness against the tradition.
“We are habituated to observe chhau ritual. Shamans can help in dispelling this belief,” she said.
She pointed out at the need of local government taking initiative to raise awareness against chhau ritual.
Dhan Bahadur Thapa, Ward Chief, Panchapuri Municipality-1, said that pulling down chhau huts merely cannot solve problems. “We knocked down chhau huts in the past as well but people rebuilt them. Raising awareness is the most important thing to remove chhau ritual,” he said.
District Administration Office Surkhet has started the campaign to demolish chhau tradition. Chief District Officer Basanta Adhikari said that more than 1,200 chhau huts in Surkhet have been brought down till date.
“We have started to destroy chhau huts following the directive of the Ministry of Home Affairs. All of us are doing our best to uproot this social evil. All three tiers of government are committed to this,” he said.