An 18-year-old woman died in Nepal on Friday, hours after she was bitten by a poisonous snake while she was hidden away in a menstruation hut, The New York Times reports. Tulasi Shahi was sleeping in the hut in a small village in western Nepal, where the traditional practice of chhaupadi is still followed even though the country’s Supreme Court ordered an end to the practice 12 years ago. The hut in which Shahi was sequestered is owned by her uncle and is where he keeps his livestock. Shahi had holed up in the hut every month when she got her period. This time turned out to be tragic as a snake bit her, according to a report by Al Jazeera. As the effects of the serpent’s venom took hold, Shahi’s mother rushed her first to a shaman and then to a medical clinic, but staff there did not have the anti-venom needed to stave off the effects of the poison, the Times reported family members having said. Shahi was dead by Friday morning. “If she was given proper treatment, she would have survived,” her cousin, Kamala Shahi, a worker at a government health post, told the Times. “She died because of superstition.”
In villages that still practice chhaupadi, menstruating women are considered “impure” and are sent to live in cattle sheds or other makeshift huts for the duration of their period. The beliefs behind chhaupadi dictate that without isolation, menstruating women bring death and destruction upon their families. If a menstruating woman touches a crop, believers hold, the crop will wilt. If she fetches water, the well will dry up. And if she stays in the house, she and her loved ones will become ill. Thousands of women and girls are subjected to the practice each year and, invariably, given the host of dangers associated with the practice, tragic results ensue in some cases. Last December, a 15-year-old girl died of apparent suffocation after being confined to a menstruation hut. According to reports, she suffered fatal smoke inhalation after lighting a fire to stay warm. And more recent, according to the Times, another teenage girl died after being bitten by a snake. A bill is currently pending in the nation’s Parliament to formally outlaw the practice.
Why are so many many people still adhering to this tradition? The Times spoke to an expert in the region who said there’s a mix of factors keeping it alive.
Read the full story at The New York Times.