Stigmas stick during Hudhud

October 16, 2014 12:00 am | Updated May 24, 2016 12:47 pm IST - BERHAMPUR:

Experiences during Hudhud cyclone indicate that stigmas related to caste and females do not diminish even during emergency situations.

Divisive force of caste was evident among persons of Phulasundari Sahi slum in ward number 18 of Berhampur, who had to be evacuated during Hudhud cyclone. Superstitions related to menstruation also proved to be a worry for several women even during evacuation for the cyclone.

The Berhampur Municipal Corporation (BMC) had assigned Kavisurya Upper Primary School as the temporary cyclone shelter for 236 persons living in Phulasundari Sahi area. But 132 of them reached this school during the Hudhud. The rest persons took shelter in a temple near the slum. During the Phailin cyclone in 2013, similar thing had been observed in this area, said Bibhu Prasad Sahu of Youth for Social Development (YSD), an organisation working with slum dwellers of Berhampur. Caste was a major reason behind this.

This slum has scheduled caste families as well as families of maharana (carpenter) caste. Both communities are economically backward and live in small houses that had suffered ravages of Phailin cyclone.

The scheduled caste families reached the Kavisurya Upper Primary School, while the families of maharana caste preferred to take shelter in the temple. Although there is no animosity among the two communities in the area yet while taking shelter in fear of coming cyclone, they did not prefer to stay together in a single shelter. Most of them said they would not feel easy to stay in extreme close proximity with the families of other caste.

According to several women, who had been evacuated to temporary cyclone shelters in the city, stigma related to menstruation also proved a problem for many women in the cramped surrounding in the temporary shelters.

In Ganjam district, menstruating women are considered impure and at times are not touched by persons having superstitious beliefs. It restricted movement of these women inside the cyclone shelters. Lack of proper toilets in these temporary cyclone shelters also was a major problem for menstruating women.

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