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Women and Girls Still Exiled During Their Periods in Nepal

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A ‘chhau goth’ in western Nepal

by Melanie Channon, Fran Amery and Jennifer Thomson for The Conversation

Periods are still treated as a taboo subject in many parts of the world. Despite being a completely normal biological function, they are often seen as shameful, embarrassing and impure.

As a result, a wide variety of customs have developed around menstruation. In Nepal, the breadth and depth of menstrual taboos is particularly severe.

A woman or girl having their period might not be able to sleep in her own bed, engage in religious activities, eat or drink normal food, enter the kitchen, touch (or even look at) other people (especially men), use the family toilet, or even enter the family home.

A woman or girl having their period might not be able to sleep in her own bed, engage in religious activities, eat or drink normal food, enter the kitchen, touch (or even look at) other people (especially men), use the family toilet, or even enter the family home.

In the west of the country, a practice known as “chhaupadi” prevails, which means that during menstruation you must sleep outside the family home, traditionally in a purpose built menstrual hut, known as a “chhau goth”. Or it might mean sleeping in a communal space above animal sheds, inside those sheds with animals, or even outside in the open air.

This practice has resulted in several deaths, most recently in December 2019, when Parwati Budha Rawat from Achham was so cold she lit a fire and died of suffocation due to lack of ventilation.

Chhaupadi was only officially criminalized in Nepal in August 2018, and enforcing the practice is now punishable by a fine or three months in jail. But the first arrest only occurred last week, in relation to the death in Achham.

Inside a chhaupadi hut with no ventilation. Melanie Channon

And with the woman dead, who will be prepared to speak up? Herein lies the problem with criminalising chhaupadi – it requires women and girls to go to the police and speak out against their own families or neighbours. It would not be possible to report anonymously, so unless the community as a whole decides to outlaw the practice, criminalising it is of little practical use.

In our recent study looking at menstrual practices in the Dailekh district of Nepal (next to Achham district), we found that 77% of girls practiced chhaupadi (as did 72% in a separate study of Achham).

Dailekh district, Nepal. Melanie Channon

We also found that while 60% of girls knew chhaupadi was illegal, knowing about the law made no difference to whether or not it took place. Among those who knew about the law, many felt that it was pointless and couldn’t see how it would change anything.

We were told that volunteers had visited villages, informing people about the new chhaupadi law. But girls from those villages said the volunteers were still following chhauppadi in their own homes.

The adolescent girls we spoke to also described the fear and anxiety that came with menstrual taboos. Several said that they wished they had been born boys. One said:

Some girls are even scared that they might get raped and killed while staying outside. We hear news where girls die due to snakebites while sleeping outside their homes during their menstrual period.

And while chhaupadi has been criminalised, it is important to remember the many other harmful practices surrounding menstruation across Nepal. These include dietary restrictions, being prevented from going to important social events such as weddings, or simply being seen as unclean and impure. All take their toll on physical and mental health.

A cow shed in Nepal where women sleep with animals during menstruation. Melanie Channon, Author provided

So what can be done about such deep-rooted cultural practices? In another part of Nepal, one community leader has responded to the death in Achham by reportedly offering cash to women who reject chhaupadi.

A communal problem

Perhaps a monetary incentive or having a community leader prepared to take a stand will make a difference. The main response to criminalisation so far has been to destroy chhau huts. But this is not helpful, as most women and girls simply sleep in a different (and often less safe) place, frequently with animals or outside.

In our study, 96% of the girls we spoke to were keen to see a change in menstrual restrictions, but they were unsure about how to bring about that change. A lot of campaigns in the past have focused on knowledge about periods, distributing sanitary pads, and maintaining healthy practices.

These have been effective in some ways but do little to address chhaupadi. The girls we spoke to generally already understood menstruation and practiced good menstrual hygiene.

We also found that the various cultural practices surrounding menstruation were affecting their mental (as well as physical) health. Despite being well educated about periods, girls did not feel able to fight taboos when so many senior people in their family, the community, and their religion believed in them.

Girls wanted to see change from the top with community and religious leaders taking a stand and publicly discarding practices of “untouchability” and chhaupadi. The government and the law were also discussed, with some saying that they wanted criminalisation strictly enforced, but others saying that this would cause problems if attitudes were not changed.

It is unsurprising that the law is not taken seriously as a force for change when the first arrest took 16 months. Ultimately, change must come from inside communities and cannot be forced by outsiders from Kathmandu or international organizations.

Melanie Channon is a Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Bath. Fran Amery is a Lecturer in Politics at the University of Bath. Jennifer Thomson is a Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the University of Bath.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.


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County Hospitals Receive 300 iPads for Patients to See Family

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LOS ANGELES – 300 iPads have been donated to Los Angeles County hospitals to facilitate patient-family communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. The gift is through a partnership with the Annenberg Foundation, Brilliant Corners, and the Los Angeles County Center for Strategic Partnerships.

“The engagement of loved ones during hospitalization has been shown to improve clinical outcomes,” said DHS Director, Dr. Christina Ghaly. “Clinical staff identified a role for virtual visiting through technology in order to facilitate this family involvement. The generous donations by the Annenberg Foundation and MobileDemand will help support this critical element of our patients’ care.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, patient visitation by family and loved ones is limited at facilities in order to prevent exposure and the spread of disease. While there are some exceptions, such as the birth of a child or death of a patient, visitation is not permitted for the vast majority of patients and not allowed at all for COVID-19 patients. 

The donation provides 300 iPads to ensure patients and their families are able to connect, despite restrictions in access to the hospital. A second donation, by MobileDemand, provides rugged, protective healthcare iPad cases to protect against damage and loss. The rugged case also has an adjustable easel attached, providing effortless viewing for patients who are too weak to hold a tablet. Additionally, it frees health care staff from having to hold the device for patients.

“This is a wonderful example of how philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, government, and businesses can collaborate and meet an immediate need in our community,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman, President and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “Being able to offer an opportunity for comfort and connection to those suffering and to alleviate some of the stress from our frontline caregivers is of utmost importance.”

While social distancing has been successful in flattening the curve of the COVID-19 surge in Los Angeles County, it is anticipated that it will continue for several months. With this gift, physicians and nurses will be able to place an iPad in the room of COVID and other critically-ill patients for the duration of the admission and reduce potential exposure and use of personal protective equipment going in and out of the room. Having a stationary iPad helps relieve medical staff who would otherwise have to hold the phone for a patient or search for the person’s personal phone. It also will allow patients who do not have a personal mobile device to communicate and “visit” with their family.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) is the second largest municipal health system in the nation. Through its integrated system of 26 health centers and four hospitals – LAC+USC Medical Center, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center – and expanded network of community partner clinics, DHS annually provides direct care for 600,000 unique patients, employs over 22,000 staff, and has an annual budget of over $6 billion.

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Processions to Cedars Will Salute Healthcare Workers on National Nurses Day

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is putting a strain on essential workers such as first responders and healthcare workers who are on the frontlines in the effort to care for coronavirus patients so the City of West Hollywood is setting out to recognize them in a special way on May 6.

National Nurses Day is a day of recognition to celebrate and honor the contributions that nurses have made and continue to make in our communities and throughout the nation. National Nurses Day is celebrated annually on May 6, which marks the beginning of National Nurses Week, a week-long celebration to raise awareness of the value of nursing and educate the public on the role nurses play in meeting the healthcare needs of Americans. National Nurses Week concludes on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, or as she was more commonly known, “The Lady of the Lamp” and founder of modern nursing.

The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is coordinating two motorcades to honor healthcare workers on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, which is nationally recognized as National Nurses Day. The processions will begin at 9:45 a.m. and at 7:15 p.m. on Santa Monica Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard and the motorcades will head west and then travel southbound on N. San Vicente Boulevard passing multiple medical center locations in West Hollywood en route to a destination outside the emergency room entrance of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Gracie Allen Drive. First responders will briefly stop, exit their vehicles and applaud healthcare workers while wearing face coverings and practicing appropriate social distancing.

“Our nurses and healthcare workers are nothing short of heroes,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore Lindsey P. Horvath. “The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us just how critical their work is to our everyday health and safety. This National Nurses Day means so much more to all of us — the City of West Hollywood and our LA County Sheriff’s West Hollywood Station and LA County Fire Stations; the City of Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills Police and Fire; the City of Los Angeles and LAPD and LAFD; the California Highway Patrol, and more — and we will honor these heroes in a special way for the care that they provide, which often goes unseen and unrecognized, in carrying us through this crisis.”

“As the worldwide response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, the critical importance of nurses in our society has been brought sharply into focus,” said City of West Hollywood Councilmember John Heilman. “More often than not, when a coronavirus patient ends up in a hospital, it is the nurses at the frontlines who are responsible for their care and treatment, putting themselves at risk in the process. We can’t say ‘thank you’ strongly enough.”

The City of West Hollywood encourages residents and community members to participate during this day of celebration while still adhering to LA County Safer At Home Orders and social distancing requirements. Suggested forms of participation include amplifying posts on social media channels, making yard or window signs and banners, participating in a coordinated daily applause or shout out for nurses and healthcare workers, and donating to organizations that are addressing the emerging needs of nurses and healthcare workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) health pandemic.

According to the American Nursing Association, nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession, with more than four million registered nurses in the United States. Registered nurses comprise one of the largest segments of the U.S. workforce and are the primary providers of hospital patient care, delivering most of the nation’s long-term care. In nursing, where workers are on the front lines of patient interactions, women make up more than 85 percent of the workforce. This year, with the onset of coronavirus, nurses have stepped up and shown the incredible impact they have on our healthcare system. It is more important than ever that we recognize National Nurses Day and celebrate the significance of nurses every day.

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Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

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Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

(TMZ) — It’s becoming more clear by the day that wet markets are NOT just a China problem — it’s an American problem too … just take a look at these latest clips from Texas and California.

TMZ has gotten a hold of even more graphic videos of two different live animal shops in TX and CA — where people pick out the animal, have it slaughtered on the spot and then sold to them right then and there — and you see the mixed-in livestock runs the gamut.

There are pigs in pens, goats and sheep hoarded together … and, of course, as we’ve seen in New York and elsewhere — chicken and rabbits cooped up in cages — all in the same area within earshot of each other, and all getting butchered.

Ya got pigs hanging from hooks out in the open, chicken beaks, feathers and guts all over the floor and in an exposed trash can — this while customers (including kids) come in and browse the freezer for whatever cuts of meat they want. It’s downright dirty and gross.

As we’ve been told by the experts, these one-stop-shop slaughterhouses/storefronts can be breeding grounds for disease — including new viruses, like COVID-19, which supposedly got started at a wet market in China.

We already know of lawmakers in Cali and New York working to get these things shut down, but it’s pretty apparent there needs to be federal legislation rolled out to address this. Can’t call the kettle black when we’re swimming in the freakin’ pot.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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