On November 18, a Nepalese woman named Dambara Upadhyay died in a so-called “menstrual hut” — a small shed where menstruating women sleep because it is believed they will offend the Hindu gods and curse their households if they remain indoors. In response to her death — and to the deaths of other women — the country’s government may enact punishments for families who adhere to the traditional practice.
NPR reports that Upadhyay lived with her husband and his family in Nepal’s Achham district. It is believed that she died of a heart attack, though the initial post-mortem could not definitively determine a cause of death. Since 2007, at least eight women have passed away in menstrual huts, with some of their deaths being attributed to wild animal attacks and fires resulting from attempts to heat the huts.
Menstrual seclusion, known as chaupadi in Nepal, stems from a belief that family members or livestock might die if menstruating women go inside houses or temples. Chaupadi was deemed illegal in 2005, but it remains prevalent in western parts of the country.
According to The Himalayan Times, the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare is considering laws that will punish families who continue to abide by the rules of chaupadi.
Some districts have already begun to combat the practice through gentle measures, believing that it will be difficult to completely abolish deeply entrenched beliefs. In the district of Jumla, for example, an organization called the Surya Social Service Society has been persuading households to set up a secluded room for menstruating women inside the home.
Read the full story at NPR.