Stay Home, Sisters

 

I was confined for twelve days. Restricted from going out into the sunlight, from seeing any male family members. Filled with fear and uncertainty. I still remember those days and nights, my eyes fixed on the ceiling while rays of light came and went. 

 

This was my first period.

 

It took time to grasp the taboo surrounding menstruation––I’m still trying to understand it.

 

Despite being outlawed, Chhaupadi is still widely practiced in Western Nepal. Each month, women are subjected to a ritual of isolation. Deemed impure, they are forced to stay in cowsheds. An old woman sings, “Stay home, sisters,” in Achhami dialect in my previous work, “Our Songs from the Forest”. Elsewhere in the country, this oppression takes on other forms. 

 

It infuriates me how my mother treats me as someone who herself suffered under the same patriarchal oppression. It infuriates me to see other girls subjected to the same dark rooms. The fear is so deeply rooted, it upholds these harmful beliefs.

 

In every household, we have to fight with the older generation. We are told that while we may enjoy our freedoms outside, we must follow these rules and restrictions inside home. But I ask, "Where is outside? Who are the outsiders?"

 

When we get cramps, we can take medicines to ease the pain. But what do we do about the psychological trauma, inherited and passed down through generations?

By Uma Bista