KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Authorities are knocking down tiny huts in western Nepal where women have been exiled during menstruation and exposed to cold weather and threats from animals and even sexual assaults.
Government officials accompanied by police officers and local politicians were going to villages and towns in Kanchanpur district, tearing down the sheds mostly made of mud walls and covered by straw roofs, Chief District Officer Sushil Baidhya said Friday.
The custom of exiling menstruating women has persisted in parts of west Nepal though the Supreme Court banned it in 2005. A new law criminalized it last year, with violators who force women into exile facing up to three months in prison or a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees ($26).
Many menstruating women are still forced to shelter in huts or cow sheds until their cycle ends. The custom — called “Chhaupadi” — continues in many parts of the majority Hindu Himalayan country, especially in the western hills.
In the isolated, unhygienic or insecure huts and sheds, women can face bitter cold, illness, wild animals and the possibility of sexual assaults.
Several women and girls have died during their exile. A major cause of the deaths is smoke inhalation because they lit a fire to keep warm in the tiny huts in hilly or mountainous areas.