"Unclean"

Every month, girls and women from the Achham district in western Nepal are expelled from the village. This is "chaupadi" - the ritual of isolating women during menstruation. They leave their homes to spend several days in sheds called "Goths", stables or caves. It is believed that such women are "unclean", and during menstruation, they are equated with the lowest caste - "untouchable".

20 PHOTOS

"Unclean"

1. Uttara Saud is a fourteen-year-old teenage girl from the village of Legudsen in Nepal with wet hair after washing - a must after "returning" to the fold of the community. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

This ritual is so ingrained in the tradition of the local population in the Achham area that even the death of some women and girls during chaupadi cannot persuade them to abandon it. During menstruation, women living in these regions cannot enter their homes, they cannot even get close to the temple, they eat separately from their families, they cannot attend social events, and cannot use water from shared sources.

"Unclean"

2. In such a "kennel" Uttara Saud - a fourteen-year-old teenage girl - has to spend several days herself. In the cold, half-starved, no one will protect her if she is raped or attacked by jackals. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

This tradition has its origins in Hinduism. Many scholars from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, believe that "chaupadi" is a misunderstood Vedic commandment that says that a woman should sleep separately from her husband during her period.

"Unclean"

3. In Achham, most women, during the most natural physiological process, have to make terrible sacrifices in the name of an outdated, unreasonable tradition of exile. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

4. Dhuna Devi Saud. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

It happens that during the "exile" girls and women die: from hypothermia, as a result of attacks of wild animals, due to illness and lack of timely help, from snake bites, as well as from fires - they burn alive, trying to somehow warm up in cold winter nights in the Himalayas.

"Unclean"

5. Yagraj Bhul - 38 years old (on the right in the photo) and his wife Ishwora Bhul (34 years old) lost their fifteen year old daughter named Sarmila last year. She died during the chaupadi ritual. According to her father, Sarmila was a strong, healthy girl. She did not return home for a long time, and they went to look for her. In the barn, they found an already cold girl with no signs of life. The parents never found out the cause of their daughter's death, since no one performed a posthumous autopsy, because there is no doctor in the village who could do it. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

6. Sarmili's father - Yagraj Bhul - shows her photo. He still has seven daughters, and after that accident, they all stopped participating in the chaupadi ritual, and so did his wife. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

7. The abandoned barn where fifteen-year-old Sarmila Bhul died during the traditional chaupadi exile ritual. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

8. The exiled Uttara Saud is waiting for food to be brought to her. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

Despite the mortal danger that can threaten expelled defenseless women during the ritual, the local community does not want to abandon this tradition. They believe that giving up chaupadi will bring terrible misfortunes: bad luck, bad harvests, cattle pestilence, and even snakes will start falling from the ceiling. Their faith and imagination did their job. The imaginary consequences of abandoning the old tradition are so severe that few people dare to go for it, even realizing that during the ritual they can simply die.

"Unclean"

9. Members of the family of the "exiled" women bring them food, and in no case should they touch the "unclean" or touch the dishes that she used. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

10. The exiled Dhuna Devi Saud prepares to spend the night in a barn in the mountains near her home village of Legudsen in the Achham district. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

11. Fourteen-year-old Uttara Saud at her parents' house after chaupadi. Again among loved ones. It is hard to imagine how these girls and women feel during such a cruel and meaningless ritual. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

12. The shadow of Uttary Saud, who is forced to skip school in order to respect the traditions of the local community. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

13. Suntali Devi Saud erases. She can only do this after the end of the exile. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

14. Laundry washed after expulsion ... (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

15. Aishi Devi Saud poses in traditional dress after the end of the "exile" period. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

16. Teacher Rupa Chand Shah opposes the chaupadi ritual. She is trying to "educate" the girls at Shree Devi Mando School in Legudsen. Some of the girls who have attended Rupa's lessons want to give up this tradition, but unfortunately, they depend on their parents to force them to take part in this cruel ritual of exile. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

17. Sanu Bhul (15 years old) and Nirmla Kadayat (16 years old) dance to a song about "chaupadi". The teacher tries to fight this tradition as best she can. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).
Some families who have stopped practicing the ritual begin to believe in its power even more if even the slightest trouble has happened to them after abandoning it.

"Unclean"

18. Dhuna Devi Saud at his house. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

19. Bhogu Devi Saud refused to participate in the chaupadi ritual. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

"Unclean"

20. Although the Nepal Supreme Court ruled illegal and banned the chaupadi ritual in 2005, it is still widely practiced in more remote regions of the country. The "dead" law has changed nothing in the daily life of women in Achham. (Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR / REUTERS).

Keywords: People | Society | Culture | World | Tradition | Menstruation | Women | Isolation | Lifestyle | Nation | Country

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