A Journey to Eradicate Menstrual Exile

YANGON, Myanmar — A woman and her two sons have died as a result of her being exiled from her home during her menstrual cycle in Nepal. The practice, known as "Chhaupadi”, is part a Nepalese tradition that forces women from their homes during menstruation.

Nandar Gyawalli in downtown Yangon (credit: Vishal Arora)

Nandar Gyawalli in downtown Yangon (credit: Vishal Arora)

Nandar Gyawalli of Yangon understands the crisis women face each month. She says she also felt humiliated when she was forced to move to strangers’ homes during her periods. The humiliation turned into determination to end the practice of menstrual exile, which is rooted in religious beliefs and followed by all in her Nepali-origin Hindu community in Myanmar.

Nepali Hindus believe that menstrual blood is impure, as women took upon themselves part of the guilt of the Hindu god Indra for a murder he committed. In western parts of the Hindu-majority Nepal, menstruating girls and women are sent to cow sheds or huts built outside homes despite the implementation of a law banning the practice last year. The Nepalis in Myanmar, too, treat the practice as an integral part of their culture and follow it lest they brought upon themselves the wrath of their gods. 

Constantly shunned, Nandar still continues to call for the abolition of this tradition, which, she says, is linked to the notion that a woman’s body is impure and must be covered from head to toe. In this video, filmed in Myanmar’s Yangon city, Nandar shares her journey thus far …