Women Of Western Nepal Caught In Unjust Traditions

Interview by Bijoyeta Das

Life of women is hard in the poverty stricken far western and mid western parts of Nepal. Few women go to school and often they are married off at early ages.


The women belonging to Badi (a minority Dalit community) are known as hereditary prostitutes. They live in western and far western parts of Nepal. Leela Badi retired as a sex worker and now her daughter Poonam has joined the profession. When Poonam works at night, Leela takes care of her 2-year-old grand daughter and distributes condoms to the men who come to their house.


The government offered 15000 ($200) Nepali Rupees to 1400 Badi families for rehabiliation. However, it is too little says many women who continue to work as sex workers. But majority of them are fighting the stigma of being called hereditary prostitutes. But the stigma of the name Badi continues to haunt women even in their old ages.


In Nepal, the name Badi is disgraceful. However not all women are involved in prostitution. Reema Badi, 32, lives in hand built shanties along the national highway in Kailali district. Every night young men in motorcycles come looking for sex workers in their community. They offer 2 Euros for one night. Reema Badi says she is tired of chasing them away. She has placed a huge hoarding in front of the settlement, which says, “We are Badi but not all Badis are prostitutes.”


In middle and far western parts of Nepal, Chhaupadi tradition is common. During menstruation and childbirth, women have to live in small sheds and are not allowed to enter the house.


It is unsafe for women to live in the sheds. There are many reports of snakebites, sexual assaults, and attacks by wild animals, infectious diseases and malaria.


More than 600,000 women in Nepal suffer from uterine prolapse, where the uterus protrudes into the vagina, and causes major discomfort, pain and smell. There is a culture of silence; women do not discuss their health and sexual problems. They continue to suffer in silence. Many of these women cannot afford surgery or treatment.


Pushpa says it is difficult for her to sit or stand upright. The foul smell causes embarrassment. When the uterus falls out of the vagina she pushes it back. A rubber-coated ring was inserted into her vagina but she cannot afford to replace it every four months.


This region continues to remain underdeveloped and was severely affected during years of Maoist conflict. There is little hope for the women as very few developmental organizations are working in this region.