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Nepal: Woman, sons suffocate to death in banned ‘menstrual hut’ | News

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A woman and her two sons suffocated to death in Nepal after she was forced to sleep in a windowless shed during her period, police said.

Amba Bohara and her children are the latest victims of an age-old Hindu practice in the Himalayan country, that was banned more than a decade ago.

Bohara, 35, and her sons, aged 12 and nine, had lit a fire on Tuesday night to keep warm in the freezing mud and stone hut, but were discovered dead the next morning by her father-in-law in western Nepal’s Bajura district, police said.

The practice of “chhaupadi” banishes menstruating girls and women to animal sheds or huts for the duration of their period, when they are thought to be impure.

“They died of suffocation because there was no ventilation and they had made the chamber airtight to beat the cold,” police official Uddhav Singh Bhat told the Reuters news agency.

“We pulled out their bodies with burned limbs.”

Outlawed in 2005

The ancient tradition was outlawed in 2005, yet it remains prevalent in Nepal’s remote west. The monthly exclusion leaves women at risk of snake bites, attacks by wild animals and rape.

Some communities fear misfortune, such as a natural disaster, if menstruating women and girls are not sent away.

They are barred from touching a range of items – including milk, religious idols and cattle – and must eat frugally. Menstruating women and girls are also not allowed to meet other family members or venture out during their period.

The custom has led to several deaths, despite the government introducing three-month jail terms and fines of 3,000 rupees ($27). Last year, a woman suffocated to death after she was banished; in 2017, a teenager died after a snake bite.

Human rights activists say the government’s efforts to end the practice have been inadequate and urged tighter monitoring.

“That a woman dies with her children during menstruation is one of the biggest tragedies,” said Mohana Ansari of the National Human Rights Commission.

Officials say battling centuries-old attitudes is not easy.

The country’s National Human Rights Commission said police needed to do more to enforce the law.

“Women will continue to die unless there are consequences for enforcing this tradition,” said Ansari.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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