File image: Nepalese woman, Navesh Chitrakar
Kathmandu (dpa) - Nepal's parliament has criminalized a centuries-old Hindu tradition that banishes menstruating women from home, which endangers their lives, a lawmaker said today.
The practice common in several districts of western Nepal forces women to cowsheds or outhouses, and forbids them from touching other people, cattle, vegetables or fruit.
Despite a ban from Nepal's Supreme Court in 2005, the tradition persisted among patriarchal Hindu families that deemed menstruating women as unclean.
"This was a criminal act, but we didn't have any laws that deemed it illegal. Now that we have passed the law, we can punish those involved in it," said Krishna Bhakta Pokharel, one of the lawmakers who passed the bill on Wednesday.
He said the law will come into effect only in a year's time "because the tradition is so deeply rooted in some parts of our country that we need time to prepare for its effective implementation."
Offenders will face a three-month jail sentence or a 3000 Nepali rupee (30 dollars) fine or both.
The practice, called Chhaupadi in Nepali, has been criticized for endangering lives of women.
Last month, a 16-year-old girl died from a snake bite while banished to a shed as part of the practice in Dailekh district.
Women's rights groups say more than 10 women have already died during the practice in the last 10 years in Nepal.