A woman in Nepal has died while sequestering herself in a “menstruation hut,” marking yet another tragedy caused by a traditional practice that officials are struggling to stamp out.
According to the New York Times, Parbati Bogati, 21, had been burning wood and fire to keep warm in below-freezing temperatures. She died of suffocation, authorities said, and was found with her legs charred.
Year after year, Nepalese women — and also at times the children in their care — are killed while observing chhaupadi, which sees the women banished to isolated huts during their periods. Their deaths have resulted from wild animal attacks, exposure and the fires they build to stave off the cold. Just last month, a mother and her two young children suffocated to death from smoke exposure while sleeping in a hut.
The practice of menstrual seclusion stems from a belief that menstruating women are impure, and that family members or livestock might die if they go inside houses or temples. The Supreme Court of Nepal banned chhaupadi in 2005, and the government criminalized it last year. But the superstition remains prevalent in western parts of the country, which are among the poorest regions in Asia, and authorities find the ban difficult to enforce. In Bogati’s case, for instance, no one forced her to enter the menstruation hut; her husband was away in Malaysia, and she seems to have adhered to the practice of her own volition.
“She was alone in her house” said Lal Bahadur Dhami, deputy superintendent of the region’s police, according to the Times. “Tell us, who should be held responsible for this crime?”
But critics say that local officials aren’t doing enough to spread the word about the dangers of chhaupadi, for fear of losing political support in regions where the tradition remains rampant. As former lawmaker Rewati Raman Bhandari, who helped draft the bill criminalizing the menstrual huts, said last month, “Tradition is stronger than the law.”
Read more at the New York Times.