Chhaupadi Is A Crime
Some traditions are so inhuman, primitive and barbaric that they are no longer acceptable in the modern day democratic society. They are so deep rooted in society that appropriate changes have to be brought about through legislation to uproot them. Chhaupadi tradition is a burning example. It is a menstrual social taboo imposed on women which is prevalent in western Nepal. The rule of seclusion during menstruation periods forces women to live in an isolated, dank and dark hut away from family. In absence of proper ventilation, light and other basic amenities of life, the condition of this shelter of isolation is often not better that of a cowshed. Putting a human being in such a situation amounts to gross violation of basic human rights clearly enshrined in the constitution of Nepal. When primeval taboos continue to exist as a mockery to the human liberty and rights of the twenty-first century, the state has to take some bold measures to abolish them. The nation has taken a right legislative step to ban the inhuman practice. Updating the criminal code of the country, the Legislature-Parliament the other day endorsed the Criminal Code 2074 which criminalises the Chhaupadi custom. Now, a family that sends its woman member to a Chhaupadi shelter will face criminal charges as per the law of the land. The code will come into effect in the near future after its certification by the President.
The nation has made fast strides in adopting human rights, civil freedom and other human values after the political change and promulgation of the new constitution. In order to implement the constitution and institutionalise the democratic system, the nation has to take timely legislative steps to join the community of democratic nations of the world. While it has to do away with the primitive and barbaric forms of social stigma and stereotypes, the basic necessities of citizens as enshrined in the constitution have to be ensured. Some social practices that were the norms of the yore have become irrelevant and outdated now. So have the provisions of the criminal code. New forms of crimes and irregularities also emerge along with the freedom given by the constitution. The amended criminal code has to address all these pertinent issues. There was a time when married women were forced to go through self-immolation in the funeral pyre of their husband according to the Sati tradition. Today’s society cannot imagine such a practice but social evils in other forms still continue. Innocent women are lynched, tortured or misbehaved in different parts of the country on charge of practicing witchcraft. Bonded labour was in practice in western Nepal until it was banned by the legislation. The treatment of the Dalit people as untouchable is prevalent in some communities even today though the practice was banned long ago. Dalits are often reported to have restricted to use the community water sources where there is the domination of so-called higher caste people. They are also prohibited to enter temples. This shows that introducing new laws does not solve the problem immediately. Positive results depend on how effectively the state implements them.