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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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L.A. Teachers Sue Delta Airlines for Fuel Dump on Elementary School

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L.A. Teachers Sue Delta Airlines for Fuel Dump on Elementary School

LOS ANGELES — Delta Airlines just got hit with a lawsuit because one of its jets allegedly dumped fuel on an L.A. elementary school.

Video showed Delta flight 89, a Boeing 777 bound for China, turning back to LAX Tuesday to make an emergency landing, and spewing fuel as it went in preparation for landing. Unfortunately, that fuel ended up dousing children at Park Avenue Elementary in the city of Cudahy, CA.

Four teachers at the school have hired Gloria Allred to take on Delta. In the suit, obtained by TMZ, they say the pilot was asked by air traffic control if there was a need to dump fuel before landing … and the pilot said no.

The suit alleges the pilot dumped the fuel without notifying the control tower … and the big problem is … it was done at an altitude of about 2,000 feet. According to docs, that’s simply too low to allow the fuel to evaporate before it reaches the ground — it should be done at 5,000 feet or higher.

In the suit, the teachers say their clothes, flesh and eyes were coated in jet fuel — and it also got into their mouths. They say they had trouble breathing and needed medical treatment.

They’re suing Delta for negligence … and seeking damages.

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


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CA Hospitals Report First Local Death of 2020 Flu Season

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SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) — As flu season rages, Loma Linda University Medical Center has once again set up its overflow tent as a waiting room for patients suffering from the virus.

“We are seeing a lot of cases of flu, more so than we have in previous years,” Dr. Heather Tassone, who works in the Loma Linda emergency room, said. “We are seeing, in California, a greater number of deaths than last year at this time.”

The current flu season is on track to be one of the worst in recent history. In almost every state, 10 million have become sick so far, 4,800 people have died — including 70 in California and […]

Continue reading at losangeles.cbslocal.com

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Dr. Oz Says Breakfast is a Sham, Waiting for Brunch Is Healthier

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Dr. Oz Says Breakfast is a Sham, Waiting for Brunch is Healthier

(TMZ) –Dr. Oz has a radical New Year’s resolution for folks that goes beyond dieting and sounds a little crazy … he wants to cancel breakfast.

The popular TV doctor is adamant the first meal of the day — the most important meal of the day according to lore — is actually a sham created by the advertising industry … and there’s a healthier alternative.

Dr. Oz tells us it’s better to wait a few hours until you’re actually hungry to eat — don’t just load up in the morning because you think you are supposed to. He suggests brunching daily over breakfast.

As for those who claim they ARE hungry first thing in the AM … Dr. Oz says you’re mistaken — it’s actually just withdrawals because you’re a food junkie.

BTW — we got Dr. Oz at his System 20 event in NYC, which featured his new plan to take control of your health in 2020 … so he’s certainly serious about the topic.

We did a little research ourselves, and it turns out … he might be on to something. Several studies in recent years show that breakfast has little to no effect on a person’s body weight, resting metabolic rate, cholesterol or blood sugar levels.

However, other studies suggest skipping breakfast is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity … and being less physically active than someone who eats breakfast.

According to Dr. Oz, though — brunch is the new breakfast.

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

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