In Maharashtra, western India, the “Hut of the Age”, where thousands of tribal women and girls are exiled during menstruation, has been redecorated.
The Mumbai-based charity Kerwadi Social Welfare Association has installed an almost desolate hut (known as Car Girl or Gaocor) with beds, indoor toilets, water and solar panels for electricity. We are replacing it with a modern restroom.
However, this movement highlights the need to combat the prejudices associated with natural physical functioning. Critics say it’s a better strategy to get rid of the huts of these times altogether. But activists say they provide a safe place for women, even if they continue to be disgraced during menstruation.
In India, menstruation has long been taboo, and women during menstruation are considered filthy and forced to live under strict restrictions. They are locked out of social and religious events and are off limits to temples, shrines and even kitchens.
However, the exclusion faced by Gondi and Madia women in Gadchiroli, one of India’s poorest and least developed regions, is extreme.
According to their traditional belief, they have to spend five days a month in a lodge. This hut is mostly on the outskirts of the forest on the outskirts of the village. They are not allowed to make or draw water from village wells and must rely on food and water delivered by female relatives. When a man touches them, he also becomes “impure by association” and must take a bath immediately.
Women in the village of Tukum, where the first modern hut was built last year, say life has become much easier for the 90 menstruating women in their village.
Earlier, they said they would be full of horror, given that they would go to a collapsing hut as the date approached. The thatched-roof mud and bamboo buildings had no doors or windows. , The minimum equipment was not equipped. They had to walk to a river 1 km away for bathing and washing.
Surekha Halami, 35, says it was unbearably hot during the summer and was infested with mosquitoes. Winter is freezing cold. And during the rain, the roof leaks and puddles form on the floor. Sometimes stray dogs and stray pigs also come.
Sheetal Narote, 21, says she couldn’t sleep at night because of fear when she needed to be alone in the hut. “I wanted to go home because it was pitch black both inside and outside, but I couldn’t help it.”
Her neighbor, 45-year-old Durpata Uzendi, says a 21-year-old woman in a hut died after being bitten by a snake 10 years ago.
“I woke up after midnight, but when she ran away from the hut and screamed, we woke up. Her relatives tried to help her, herbs and local medicine. Gave me.
“The man was watching from a distance, even in her family. The man was unable to touch her because the woman during menstruation was dirty. When the poison spread throughout her body, she He lay on the ground in pain and died a few hours later. “
In a video call, the women showed us around a new hut: made from recycled sand-filled PET bottles, painted in bright red, and hundreds of blue and yellow bottle caps on the wall. Embedded. Eight beds, “most important thing”-women point out-indoor toilets and lockable doors.
Nicola Monterio of KSWA says it cost Rs 650,000 ($ 8,900; £ 6,285) and took two and a half months to build. The NGO has built four old huts, with six more huts scheduled to open in neighboring villages in mid-June.
Dilip Barsagade, president of Sparsh, a local charity that has been active in the region for the past 15 years, visited 223 old huts a few years ago and found that 98% were “unsanitary and unsafe.” It says that it was.
From an anecdote provided by the villagers, he compiled a list of “at least 21 women who died while staying in the car shed for completely avoidable reasons.”
“One woman was bitten by a snake and died, the other was taken to a bear, and one-third had a high fever,” he says.
His report urges the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRC) to instruct the state government to “eradicate customs” to constitute “a serious violation of women’s human rights, safety, health and dignity.” However, many years later, the tradition remains deeply rooted.
All the women in Tukum and the neighboring villages I talked about don’t want to go to old huts, sometimes get angry at lack of facilities, but helpless to change the customs that have permeated for centuries. He said he feels. Tradition.
Surekha Halami said they were afraid that if they went against tradition, they would face the wrath of God and cause illness and death to their families.
“Grandmother and mother went to the car girl. I go there every month. Someday I’ll let my daughter go,” she told me.
The village elder, Chengdu Eusendi, told the BBC that the tradition could not be changed because it was “determined by our gods.”
He said rebellion was punished and those who broke tradition would have to provide pork, mutton, alcohol or pay fines throughout the village.
Religion and tradition are often cited as the main justification for restrictions, but urban educated women are increasingly challenging these regressive ideas.
Women’s group I went to a court requesting access to Hindu and Islamic temples Social media campaigns such as #HappyToBleed It is organized during the period to clear the stigma.
“But this is a very backward field, and the changes here are always gradual. Experience has shown that we can’t face this head-on,” says Monterio.
According to her, the new hut provides a safe place for women while pursuing the future goal of eradicating this practice by educating the community.
And that’s easy to say and difficult to do, says Barsagade.
“We know that a better hut is not the answer. Women need physical and mental support during menstruation, which is only available at home. But it’s not easy to resist No. There is no magic wand that changes the situation. “
According to him, the biggest problem so far is that even women do not understand that it is an infringement of their rights.
“But now attitudes are changing and many educated young women are beginning to question this practice. It will take time, but it will change in the future,” he said. Says.