A Monthly Exile Ritual for Girls and Women in Nepal

Chaupadi. It's a little-known word outside of Nepal, but has huge repercussions for the rights of women and girls everywhere. Chaupadi is the ritual separation of women and girls during menstruation in rural communities that stretch out in the foothills of Everest.

It is a ritual that 98 percent of women in the rural district of Achham—where journalists Allyn Gaestel and Allison Shelley reported this story—participate in.

The foundation of the practice is the belief that women are unclean during that period, with the consequent behavior adjustments: women are separated from their family homes and are forbidden to touch communal food and water.

The practice, reinforced by village elders, carries negative consequences for the women who are relegated to a stable, small hut, or cave for one-quarter of the month: improper nutrition, a lack of economic empowerment opportunities, and discrimination and oppression based solely on gender.

There are also more dire consequences. Some women face sexual assault or rape when they are isolated from the protection of their families.

Some activists—including Dhurbar Sunar of Samabikas, a organization in Achham district pushing to abolish chaupadi—are working to fight the practice, which is still enforced despite a 2005 ban by the Nepalese government.