LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The death of a teenage girl in Nepal after she was banished to a shed while she was menstruating highlights the dangers of an age-old Hindu practice that persists despite being banned over a decade ago, a charity said on Monday.
Nineteen-year-old Tulasi Shahi from Nepal’s western Dailekh district is reported to have died after being bitten by a poisonous snake while staying in a shed where she was required to sleep during her period, WaterAid said in a statement.
The practice of “chhaupadi” banishes menstruating girls and women to animal sheds for the duration of their period as they are thought to be impure.
“Sadly, this is not an isolated case as every day, girls and women in parts of Nepal are forced to live outside their communities just because they are menstruating,” Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive at WaterAid UK said in the statement.
“The ancient practice of chhaupadi is perhaps the most acute example of how the stigmatisation of periods impinges on women’s everyday lives.”
Chhaupadi was outlawed in 2005, but reports of women and girls dying in attacks by wild animals and from snake bites, or being raped while they are in seclusion show the archaic practice still continues in Nepal’s remote west.
Similar confinement also occurs when women give birth.
As well as physical exclusion, girls are forbidden during their period from taking part in ordinary communal activities. They are often without basic necessities, such as sanitary pads.
In December, a 15-year-old girl in western Nepal suffocated to death after being forced to stay in a poorly ventilated shed. WaterAid also said it had reports that a 14-year-old had died in recent weeks from an illness contracted while staying in a chhaupadi shed.
Although there have been no reported prosecutions, the Nepalese government “has committed to break the silence that shrouds menstruation and eradicate chhaupadi... (and) develop a national menstrual hygiene policy framework,” WaterAid said.
Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, resilience and climate change. Visit www.trust.org