Criminalizing of chhaupadi proposed in new legal code

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KATHMANDU:  A parliamentary panel has proposed that the practice of chhaupad, which is common mostly in the mid and far-western districts, should be made a criminal act, pointing out that this age-old custom is inhumane and a discrimination again women  during menstruation and the postnatal period.

A sub-committee formed under the parliamentary Legislative Committee tasked with revising the criminal code, has included a new provision to criminalize chhaupadi. Under this practice, women going through menstruation and the postnatal period are required to live in a makeshift hut in an isolated spot to keep them out of contact with  males in particular .

The bill has proposed a three-month jail term or a fine of Rs 3,000 for offenders. Chhaupadi has been claiming the lives of women, teenage girls and infants. “When the bill on the criminal code is endorsed by the legislative committee and passed by the full House the practice of chhaupadi, in which women and girls are banished from the home during the menstruation and postnatal period will become an illegal act,” said coordinator of the sub-committee Krishna Bhakta Pokharel. According to him, there is no law in the country yet to criminalize this practice.

The nine-member sub-committee on Thursday unanimously decided to add a sub-clause mentioning the issue under clause 166 of the bill on the criminal code. Clause 166 deals with inhuman and discriminatory acts and includes provisions to criminalize social taboos.

The newly promulgated constitution of the country in its preamble has granted the right of equality to citizens as their fundamental right and has vowed to end any kind of discriminatory activity in the name of gender, race, and religion.

“There shall be no discrimination in the application of general laws on the grounds of origin, religion, race, caste, tribe, gender, physical conditions, disability, health conditions, matrimonial status, pregnancy, economic conditions, language or geographical region, ideology or any other such grounds,” reads Article 18 (2) of the new constitution.

However, there has been no law so far to criminalize such activities. Former speaker of parliament Subas Nembang said that the decision of the committee is progressive and gender-friendly. “With the new provision recognizing the behavior of untouchability during the menstrual period as a criminal act, it would help end chhaupadi and similar social practices in the country,” said Nembang.

The sub-committee is working to finalize the other revisions of the criminal code within a few days, said coordinator Pokharel.

–  By ashok Dahal for REPUBLICA

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