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'Menstruation hut' ritual claims life of teenage girl in Nepal

  • Published at 07:55 pm July 10th, 2017
'Menstruation hut' ritual claims life of teenage girl in Nepal

An 18-year-old girl has died in Nepal after she was bitten by a snake while being forced to stay in a shed because she was on her period.

According to local officials, Tulasi Shahi was bitten twice by a venomous snake and died on Friday morning in western Dailekh district.

Local mayor Surya Bahadur Shahi said: "She survived for seven hours after the snake bite but died because medical treatment was delayed”.

The ancient Nepalese custom of prohibiting women who are menstruating or have just given birth from taking part in normal family activities and having contact with men of the household because they are deemed “impure” is known as “chhaupadi”.

The practice which is common in the western part of Nepal for Hindu women was outlawed in 2005. However local organisations say many other deaths associated with the practice are likely to go unreported.

Local media say Shahi’s family took her to the village shaman for treatment rather than transporting her to a hospital.

Police were able to confirm a girl had died but were not able to offer further details on the cause of death.

Some remote Nepalese communities believe they will suffer bad luck such as natural disasters, abrupt death of animals, and illnesses if women are not banished to huts or cowsheds when they menstruate. On top of experiencing isolation, they are prohibited from drinking milk and given less food to eat while they are on their period.

Two women died at the end of 2016 in separate incidents linked to the custom. One 15-year-old girl died of smoke inhalation after she lit a fire for warmth after being banished to a shed. The other women's cause of death is not known.

While activists argue the government’s ability to counter such customs has been inadequate, officials claim overhauling archaic, culturally entrenched attitudes cannot take place over night.

Proposed legislation that would criminalise the practice and make it an imprisonable offence to force women to follow the ritual is currently pending in parliament.