Paudel is determined to also change the image of Karnali as being a backward, illiterate and primitive region. For instance, Nepal’s 2018 Criminal Code prohibits the practice of banishing women to chhaupadi huts during menstruation or childbirth, but does not address more general menstrual restrictions practiced all over Nepal. Limiting the crime of isolating women to chhaupadi unfairly points the finger at only western Nepal.
Women dying of suffocation or snake bites in menstrual sheds make headlines, but not the everyday humiliation women everywhere are subjected to. Paudel says the ceremonial demolition of chhaupadi huts is misdirected. “Even if you replace the huts with a 5-star hotel, that is still discrimination,” she says.
Menstrual shaming exists all over the world, not just in Nepal. Just this month, Unicode approved a droplet of blood as an emoji to symbolise menstruation. Plan International lobbied for the emoji because its poll found that nearly half the girls and women in the UK between 14-21 were embarrassed about their periods.
Across the world, women use code words when they refer to their periods, and Nepal is no different. Paudel lists some of them: chhui, chhau, nachhune, para sarne, all describing the isolation and stigma women face.
Radha Paudel now wants to go beyond physical aspects of menstrual ostracisation to psycho-social and religious beliefs that make many women themselves firm believers in the taboos. Part of the reason she wrote the book is to demystify menstruation so that students, families, men and women can talk about it openly.
Pad Power, Ziyu Lin
Stereotyping women as victims, Radha Adhikari and Jeevan Sharma