A Nepalese Girl Has Died Whilst Banished To A 'Menstruation Hut'

The 18 year-old was bitten twice by a snake whilst enduring the illegal practice of 'chhaupadi'

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Tulsa Shahi is the girl who has reignited the international conversation about Nepal's outlawed sexist practice, 'chhaupadi'.

'Chhaupadi' is the ancient practice that women who are menstruating must endure, which is, essentially, banishing women from their normal lives.

According to Al Jazeera, chhaupadi tradition ensures 'women are banned from taking part in normal family activities during menstruation and after childbirth, and can have no contact with men of the household.'

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This means they are relegated to sleep in a cow shed for the duration of their period.

During menstruation and after childbirth women, historically all across South East Asia, are moved down the caste system and become an 'untouchable'.

A Nepalese Home

Last week, 18 year-old Tulsa was enduring her time in a cow shed when she was bitten twice by a venomous snake in the western Dailelh district of Nepal.

According to the Independent, local mayor Surya Bahadur Shahi said 'she survived for seven hours after the snake bite but died because medical treatment was delayed.'

Al Jazeera reported that her family unfortunately took her to the village shaman instead of a doctor.

Although it was obviously the snake venom that killed Tulsa, many are suggesting it was the practice that kept her from gaining medical attention sooner.

Chhapati has been banned in the country for ten years, however this hasn't stopped rural and remote areas engaging in it.

A Nepalese woman banished to her hut

Apparently, 'Women who violate the practice are blamed for crop failures, illnesses and sudden deaths of animals.'

This death follows on the heels of two others from the practice at the end of last year, one 15 year-old who died of smoke inhalation after lighting a fire for warmth, whilst another 26 year-old woman's cause of death has not been determined.

NPR reported that since 2007 there have been at least eight other reported incidences of deaths related to the seclusion in one district called Acham.

It has been stated that there are 500 sheds used for this kind of isolation in the Western district.

Activists suggest, however, that many deaths go unreported and that 500 huts is an under estimation, since many families use dark corners of the house instead of huts.

A young Nepalese woman shows her chaupadi house

There have been many efforts to end the stigma of menstration in area, as well as attempts to highlight the inhumanity of the entire practice.

The government has invested in awareness campaigns and have tried to get villages to become 'chhaupadi-free', however, a 2011 U.N. report suggested that 95 percent of women in the Acham district followed the practise.

Thankfully, there appear to be some grass-roots activism against the socioreligious issue.

Last year teenage girls from Sindhuli started a photojournalism project, taking photos of all the things they can't touch or do during chhaupadi.

The photos from the seven girls are accompanied with explanations describing how it feels to be kept at a distance, one 15 year old girl said,

However, during my menstruation cycle I am kept separately and have to eat at distance. When nobody touches me, I feel unloved. We need lots of love and support during our menstruation but, when I am separated and treated like an untouchable I feel no love from my mother and father and I feel only hatred. I feel sad being treated that way.

A Nepalese woman shows her chaupadi house

Dazed has also reported on a teenage girl named Durga Bist, who has joined a resistance group called Restless, and she managed to get her family to destroy the hut used for isolation and educates other girls in her area.

She has successfully managed to educate families to end their participation in this part of the practice.

What seems clear is that this outdated practise is both deeply psychologically harmful, since it humiliates women concerning their own bodies, but also physically dangerous.

Hopefully the Nepalese government will heed the international outcry and continue to invest in ending chhaupadi.

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