Chaupadi system-an age-old practice of banishing menstruating girls or women to animal sheds has claimed one more life in western Nepal.
15-year-old Roshani Tiruwa studying in class 9 suffocated to death after being forced to sleep in a poorly ventilated mud-and-stone hut in Gajra village, Achham district, Kathmandu, Nepal.
She was menstruating and was sent to a shed outside her home. Her body was discovered next morning by her father when she didn’t respond after calling.
Badri Prasad Dhakal, the local district inspector, informed AFP that the investigation is going on. They suspect that she died of suffocation from the smoke of a fire she lit to keep herself warm, as reported by Aljazeera.
The girl slept in a hut known as ‘chaupadi shed’ where girls or women are sent to stay during their menstruation because they are believed to be impure.
A month earlier, the Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal called for an end to Chaupadi system when a 21-year-old woman in the nearby village died the same way, as reported by NDTV.
The practice was outlawed in 2005 when many cases of deaths due to wild animal deaths, snake bites were reported. There were also incidents of rape since the girls and women were alone in the huts during the night.
The communities believe that breaking the tradition of sending women to stay separately during their period brings bad luck, and it will affect crops, animals and snakes would fall from the ceiling. Many believe that they will suffer from a misfortune such as natural disaster.
95% of the women in Achham District follow this superstition.
The women subjected to this superstitious practice are at a risk of health problems like pneumonia. Many are also sexually assaulted, while few suffer from prolonged depression, as reported by Independent.
Apart from being sent off to the shed, the women are also not permitted to drink milk and are not given proper food to eat during their period.
An official from Women and Child Welfare Ministry, Binita Bhattarai said that they had launched schemes to educate the people, but it is difficult to remove practices that are so deeply rooted in the society.
India too has its stigma attached to the topic of menstruation. Even a mention of the subject has been taboo in the past. In fact, in many parts of India, menstruation is still considered to be dirty and impure. Women are prohibited from participating in everyday activities while on their period. Many women and girls are restricted from offering prayers and touching anything holy. The major restriction amongst girls is not to enter temples or puja room while many are prohibited from entering the kitchen.
It should be understood that menstruation is a normal biological phenomenon. It is a natural part of the reproductive cycle.
Why is a biological process still a taboo topic? It is only when we talk about it that we can raise awareness about the associated health issues. Just as with breast cancer, we can only change the mindset when we start a conversation.