Nepal tightens laws against dowry, menstrual exile

Nepal’s Parliament has passed a Bill toward making women safer by strengthening laws against acid attacks along with the ancient Hindu customs of demanding dowry payments for marriage and exiling women who are menstruating.

The new law goes into effect in August 2018, with violators who force women into exile facing punishments of up to three months in jail or a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees, or about Rs. 1,875. Many menstruating women are still forced to leave their homes and take shelter in insecure huts or cow sheds until their cycle ends, though the practice called Chhaupadi was actually outlawed a decade ago. But without any assigned penalties, the custom continued in many parts of the majority Hindu Himalayan country, especially in the western hills.

‘Bill alone not enough’

While exiled in isolation, some women face bitter cold or attacks by wild animals. Unclean conditions can also cause infections.

“People will be discouraged to follow this discriminatory custom due to fear of punishment” now that the new Bill is passed, said lawmaker Krishna Bhakta Pokhrel from the committee that drafted the Bill.

But a female parliamentarian from the far-western district of Doti, where menstrual exile is still practised, said the legislation passed on Wednesday alone would not be enough, and the government should also invest in educating women on good hygiene.

The legislation was part of an ongoing effort to improve the country’s laws.

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