Sunday 16 December 2018

Menstruating girls 'banned from crossing river to get to school'

Jon Sharman

Girls have reportedly been banned from crossing a river while menstruating by authorities in a central district of Ghana.

As a result they are said to miss 20 out of 60 days of their school classes.

They have also been blocked from crossing on Tuesdays due to an apparent directive from a river god that is being enforced by traditional leaders,  BBC Pidgin, the corporation's West African digital service reported.

The Ofin River ruling affects girls in Upper Denkyira East district.

"Sometimes I think that we need to ask for some form of accountability from these gods who continue to bar a lot of things from happening, to account for how they have used the tremendous power that we have given them," said Shamima Muslim Alhassan, a United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) menstrual hygiene ambassador.

The UN believes one in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their period - potentially totally a fifth of a school year.

Elsewhere, a woman has died in a remote village in Nepal because of a tradition in which women are exiled from their homes and forced to live in huts during menstruation, said government administrator Tul Bahadur Kawcha.

The 21-year-old is believed to have died from smoke inhalation from a fire she lit in the hut to keep warm in the freezing temperatures in the mountain village. She woman was found dead on Monday.

Mr Kawcha said the tradition is still practiced in some remote villages despite a government ban on the practice and a law introduced last year to punish people who force women to follow the custom.

The new law goes into effect in August this year, with violators who force women into exile during menstruation facing up to three months in prison or a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees (£21).

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.

Without any 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.

A report last year from America's prestigious Columbia University, which concluded the enduring taboo around periods was endangering women's health around the world.

A lack of facilities "augments the challenges girls and women face in conducting daily activities while managing vaginal bleeding, including participating in school or work, going to the market or fetching water", the authors wrote.

They added that a "culture of silence" meant many people were not able to tell the difference between healthy or normal bleeding and that which might indicate a health problem.

Independent News Service

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