In Nepal, chhaupadi applies to new mothers (until the eleventh day after the birth of their child), and to women during their monthly period. This practice is attributed to a belief that their god will become angry with families who do not practice chhaupadi. Padma Devi Deuba, a young mother, said of being on her period: “If I touch anyone, it will be a sin.” Other beliefs are not universal, ranging from bad luck on a household that allows a new mother or a menstruating women to remain in the house, to the idea that such women can make blood out of cow’s milk.
Many of the women in Nepal are forced to deal with cramped, unsanitary conditions, often in spaces shared with cattle, and the consequences can be frightening.
“Last summer a 15-year-old girl died of diarrhoea she contracted while sleeping alone in a shed. No one wanted to take her to a health post.”
Such realities did lead the government of Nepal to take some action on this issue.
“Extreme confinement was outlawed by Nepal's Supreme Court three years ago, but continues to be widespread.”
Devaki Shahi, who was confined after the birth of her son, now travels and speaks out for change in regard to this practice. She works for the Rural Women's Development and Unity Centre, a local charity.