World

Nepal strengthens laws against dowry, menstrual exile

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s Parliament has passed a bill aimed at making women safer by strengthening laws against acid attacks along with the ancient Hindu customs of demanding dowry payments for marriage and exiling women who are menstruating.

The new law goes into effect in August 2018, with violators who force women into exile facing punishments of up to three months in jail or a fine of $29.

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Many menstruating women are still forced to leave their homes and take shelter in unhygienic or insecure huts or cow sheds until their cycle ends, though the practice — called Chhaupadi — was actually outlawed a decade ago. But without any assigned penalties, the custom continued in many parts of the majority Hindu Himalayan country, especially in the western hills.

While exiled in isolation, some women face bitter cold or attacks by wild animals. Unclean conditions can also cause infections.

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‘‘People will be discouraged to follow this discriminatory custom due to fear of punishment’’ now that the new bill is passed, said lawmaker Krishna Bhakta Pokhrel.

But a female parliamentarian from the far-western district of Doti, where menstrual exile is still practiced, said the legislation passed Wednesday alone would not be enough, and the government should also invest in educating women on good hygiene.

‘‘Fear of punishment will not stop people from following this custom who think women are impure during menstruation,’’ Gauri Kumari Oli said. ‘‘The government and nongovernmental agencies should start to do more to raise awareness.’’

associated press

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