This happened in Nepal.
Roshani Tiruwa, 15, of Gajra – died on Saturday night in Chhaupadi goth (isolated shed) where women and girls are kept during menstruation. Her family members found her body lying in the shed on Saturday morning. This is the second incident of Chhaupadi death in Achham within a month. On November 19, Dambara Upadhyay, 21, was found dead in Chhaupadi shed.
According to SP Badri Prasad Dhakal, Roshani must have died due to suffocation as she had lit a small fire in the shed to warm herself. “Lack of air might have claimed her life. She lit the fire inside,” said SP.
Roshani’s father said that she had taken the evening meal at around 6 pm and went inside the shed to sleep. When she was not seen till late in the morning, he gave her a call from outside.
“Then we saw her dead body,” he said. “As it was her holiday on Saturday, we thought she had gone to jungle to collect firewood,” he added.
She was a ninth grader at Rastara Bhasah Secondary School and was undergoing third day of menstruation.
According to SP Dhakal, lack of ventilation in the narrow shed might have caused the tragic death. “There was lack of oxygen as she lit fire in the very narrow shed that had no ventilation,” he said.
Just a month ago when Dambara Upadhyay, a local of Timilsen VDC, had died in Chhaupadi shed. It was also reported that she died due to lack of oxygen. She was also told to have lit fire in the shed.
Remarkably, Gajra was declared Chhaupadi free VDC on September 26, 2015. The declaration was made by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.
But with centuries-old roots in Hinduism, Chaupadi has survived in some regions despite bans, a U.N. alert and the deaths of many women.
Nepal outlawed it in 2005, yet a 2011 bulletin from the United Nations said that nearly every woman in Roshani’s district of Achaam still lived under the practice.
The Guardian interviewed a 16-year-old girl in a neighboring district who was sent each month to live in a stone shed “littered with hay, muck, insects and dung.”
“The cow dung smells and the animals step on us,” the girl told the paper in April.
“We don’t want to live like this but our gods won’t tolerate it any other way,” another woman from the village said.
The New York Times reported that girls “deemed impure and untouchable” while menstruating are sent from their homes to stay in sheds or caves, and forced to wash at separate taps.
“Communities believe that to break the tradition would bring devastating bad luck: crops would fail, animals would die, snakes would fall from the ceiling,” the Times reported. “The imagined consequences are so dire that few dare to test stopping.”
But many who obey Chaupadi find death themselves. An 11-year-old from western Nepal died of an illness in 2010 because “her family and neighbors refused to take her to a hospital, believing they would become impure if they touched the menstruating girl,” according to the U.N. bulletin.
Most human communities all over the world had such strange and cruel customs. Many have come out of it to a more humanist and rational outlook. Some have not.
Instead of celebrating inhuman traditions, let us help them to come out of it.