Menstruation is usually celebrated as an important stage in a girl’s life when she transitions into puberty and womanhood.
However, this normal bodily function isn’t seen as a healthy, normal process everywhere in the world. In remote villages in western Nepal, women are actually banished to “chhaupadi” huts for days during their menstruation cycles and right after giving birth. Why? Because they are seen as impure — so much so that they aren’t allowed to be anywhere near their families and cannot have any contact with men.
Not only does the traditional practice treat young girls and women cruelly, but it can also lead to their deaths. Unfortunately, a 15-year-old recently died during her exile in one of these small huts.
On December 18, Roshani Tiruwa’s family found her lifeless body on the floor. The huts don’t protect the girls from cold weather, so police believe she suffocated while lighting a fire to keep herself warm.
— myRepública (@RepublicaNepal) December 19, 2016
But she hasn’t been the only one to lose her life. Deaths are reported every year as a result of exposure or animal attacks. A 26-year-old woman even died in November.
The possibility of dying is something these girls have to face every month, and they’re forced to live in deplorable conditions. The floors where they sleep are covered in hay and feces from livestock.
They also aren’t allowed to prepare their own food and have restrictions on their diets. They can’t eat meat, vegetables, fruits, or even dairy products because villagers fear this will make their livestock sick. Instead, they are given dry foods, like bread and rice.
In addition to being separated from their families and not being allowed to make physical contact with people, they are forbidden from touching utensils and water sources. They also can’t go to school and are forced into doing difficult physical labor.
Though the chaupadi system was outlawed in 2005 by the Supreme Court of Nepal, it is still being practiced in western regions.
The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare is currently trying to raise awareness about the cruel practice. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is also considering a law to punish families that allow it.