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The killer tradition

My name is Kalika. I am 14 years old. I quit schooling four years ago; now I am helping my family at home. I was born in Jumla -a less favored and the poorest region of Nepal- and I am still living here. The view is magnificent, but life is hard in here. For women it is even harder. We have a tradition that most of us must follow, called Chhaupadi, which is a temporary exile of the women, as in the western region of Nepal, we are regarded as dirty during their menstrual period.

Yes, I, Kalika, will sleep in this barn on the straws with animals for three days because I am on my period. My town is located at 3000 meters of altitude in the Himalayas. The barn is very dark, dirty and cold. I am trembling like a leaf.

I had my period for the first time when I was 12 years old, and like the other girls in here, I stayed at the exile location for 13 days. We are instructed to keep away from nutritious foods, like milk, rice, butter and some vegetables, while we are exciled. I know this tradition is a terrible thing, but this is our culture and we must follow it. If we reject this tradition, that will anger our gods.

When something bad happens (like a snakebite), we are the first ones to be blamed. We are told that bad things will happen when we are on our menstrual period, such as: if we touch a fruit tree, it will dry out; if we touch an animal, it will get ill; if we drink its milk, it will run dry. I don't want my family to get ill; that's why I go to exile voluntarily.

Jumla, Nepal, 3 May 2018

Photographer's Note: Because of that tradition, within the last year, three women died from snakebites and smoke poisoning.

Nepalese High Court legislated a regulation against this tradition in 2005, but it didn't go in effect because of some bureaucratic problems. On 9 August 2017, a new resolution was accepted by the Parliament that made Chhaupadi a crime, thanks to the activists from Nepal and all around the world.

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