- Police believe Bogati died from smoke inhalation after lighting a fire inside a menstruation hut to stay warm over night
- The ancient practice of chhaupadi forces women to leave their homes during their menstruation cycles and stay in huts
- Chhaupadi has been banned since 2005 and was criminalized in 2017 but that has not stopped rural areas of Nepal from still practicing the tradition
Up until a few years ago, women all across Nepal were forced to sleep in outside huts during their menstruation cycle. Even though the practice was banned years ago, it still is a widespread practice in rural areas.
The practice is called “chhaupadi,” which means the woman is unclean and can bring bad luck when bleeding. Often these “menstruation huts” are extremely cold and the women inside are vulnerable to criminal attacks, suffocation and at least one teenage girl died after being bitten by a snake.
Most recently, it is believed that 21-year-old Parwati Bogati died from suffocation after lighting a fire in the small hut to stay warm throughout the night. Her mother-in-law, Laxmi Bogati, found her dead when she went to check on her. Laxmi told the Kathmandu Post Bogati was excited because the next day her menstruation was believed to end.
Local police officer Lal Bahadur Dhami told AFP that they suspect Bogati died from smoke inhalation after closing the door to the windowless hut with a fire burning for warmth.
We suspect she died due to smoke inhalation and suffocation because she closed the door of the windowless hut and lit a fire on the floor for warmth during the night.
Under the practice of Chhaupadi, women are isolated in tiny spaces, sometimes cattle sheds, with no proper bedding. While in the menstruation hut, the women are not allowed to cook, eat nutritious food, or drink or bathe from the village water source. They are not allowed to touch men, plants, or cattle. The belief behind the practice claims that if a cow is touched by a menstruating woman, it will not produce milk.
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The women are not allowed to use toilets since they connect to the water used at home. By using the toilet it is believed the women could pollute the village water. Instead, they must go far out into fields where they cannot be seen to do their business.
While it remains unclear where exactly the idea of periods being unclean originated, it is widely believed to be tied to Hindu scriptures. In Nepal, 80% of the population is Hindu. Hindu priests believe the woman’s period to be sacred, but dangerous. There is a belief that the women can pass on disease during sexual intercourse if they do not restrict themselves.
During Rishi Panchami — an annual religious ceremony — women fast and are bathed in sacred water. Women are also allowed to atone for accidentally touching a man or polluting their environment.
In 2005, the Nepalese Supreme Court banned the practice of forcing women to leave the house during their menstruation. In 2017, the act of Chhaupadi was criminalized. Anyone who makes a woman follow the practice faces a three-month jail sentence and a $30 (£23) fine. Despite the possible legal consequences, especially in rural areas of Nepal, the change has proven it is going to take a long time before all women are free from the dangerous practice of Chhaupadi.