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Why Some Women Die During Their Period

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If you thought bleeding from your nether regions for a week every month was bad, imagine if you had to spend this week sleeping on the hard floor of an outdoor hut…

Why Some Women Die During Their Period

In some regions of Nepal, this is a reality. The villagers who practice this tradition, known as ‘Chaupadi’, believe that a menstruating woman will anger the Hindu gods or contaminate the home if they remain indoors when Aunt Flow comes to pay a visit. They go each night to their “menstrual huts” for fear that livestock or family members may get sick or die.

In the west Nepal village of Timalsena, 26-year-old Dambara Upadhyay was no exception. On November 18th, 2016, Upadhyay slept in a menstrual hut, and on the morning of November 19th, she was found lifeless. This is certainly not the first time that a woman has died in a menstrual hut, but it marks the first time that the prime minister requested an investigation of the incident. Almost exactly one month later, overnight on December 17th, a 15-year-old died when her hut burned down.

Why Some Women Die During Their Period

Despite the dangers, it’s not hard to see why this superstitious tradition continues. If, for generations you’ve been told that the evacuation of hemoglobin from your lady parts was connected to the death of your grandfather, you would be pretty quick to seclude yourself in an outdoor hut as well.

The practice has been outlawed since trucker hats were a thing (2005 in case you’ve wiped that tacky trend from your memory), but like many regions where modern life (and trucker hats) have yet to infect the populous, the tradition has continued. And even though Chaupadi was outlawed 11 years ago, there were no avenues put in place to prosecute violators, so the practice carried on unhindered. Following Upadhyay’s recent death, the Nepal Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare has vowed to nip the issue in the bud by enacting laws designed to punish families who practice Chaupadi.

Why Some Women Die During Their Period

But, in the nearby district of Jumla, one man is attempting to change the practice another way. Through his organization, Surya Social Service Society, which promotes safe menstrual practices, he persuades local families to set up a secluded room inside the house for a woman to spend her time of the month, instead of a hut outside. Model families who have done this are then used to demonstrate to other still-suspicious families that grandpa will live to see another day, and that the crops and the livestock will keep producing as per usual.

To get involved in spreading awareness about menstrual health and save women’s lives, contact the Surya Social Service Society.

Ariana is a writer and world traveler. Her writing covers her three main passions: women’s empowerment, travel, and culture. The beauty of the world is not just in scenic mountain views or turquoise waters; it’s in doing the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. For Ariana, that thing is stringing words together. Email her at ariana@thewaywardpost.com and follow her journey on Instagram @surrealife.

34 Comments

  1. Jackie Lewis

    This tradition has been part of history for as long as we’ve had written traditions–it is even mentioned in the bible. It is mindboggling that it is still being practiced in some parts of the world–but the article is right; if some women are told that their menstrual cycle related to any misfortunes in their life, they would immediately remove themselves from the situation. It is good to hear that the government is beginning to get involved and investigate the situation–it might help future deaths be prevented.

  2. Reading this article gave me mixed emotions: angry, sad and uncomfortable! I feel bad that women from Nepal need to experience harsh treatment because of religious belief or cultural tradition!

    I’d like to help and I’m exploring Surya Social Service Society’s activities. I’ll be involved!

  3. Susan Watson

    This cultural tradition is sooooo dangerous and cruel!!! I think education plays a major role. I mean if women are educated in these places, do you think they would allow being treated this way?

    If they are educated:

    – they would know this practice would bring “health problems”
    – they would be aware and would know what are and how to fight for their rights as women

    • I absolutely agree that education is the key to ending this practice. The people in these communities need to see that having a menstruating woman in the house will not impact the family in a negative way. Also, probably learning more about the science behind menstruation would be helpful as well.

  4. Jan Randolph

    This is but one “problem” that many communities around the world have held for centuries and still hold today with women; female genital mutilation is still practiced in some African and Middle Eastern cultures; breastfeeding, the natural way for a human to feed offspring, continues to be vilified. So, the enjoyment of sex (FGM) and the ability to bear children (menstruating) and feed them (breastfeeding) are all bad and need to be punished. Unconscionable.

  5. Such an eye opener. Thanks for writing about it! Chaupadi clearly illustrates the negative side of “religion.”

  6. Sharlene Robinson

    Oh wow, discrimination in its OBVIOUS and PAINFUL way!!!

  7. I think women will face a LOT of health-related problems because of this tradition. Excessive bleeding, infections or itching are some examples. Very sad…

  8. I feel bad for women in Nepal…

  9. I can’t imagine such tradition exists. Seriously, in this age of technology and modern society?!

  10. What kind of religious tradition is this?! Young girls and women are treated in a HORRIFIC way!

  11. Health, hygiene, and safety are my main concerns 🙁

  12. I feel that this tradition is super painful.

  13. Terrible ritual!

  14. Have you heard of Prakriti Kandel? She’s a 15-year old Nepalese who’s trying to put a stop to this taboo. She wrote a novel entitled “Imposter.” It’s about girls who get superpowers whenever they menstruate.

  15. I think this ritual clearly shows “gender inequality.” This is clearly a form of discrimination, and it hurts 🙁

  16. Winona Miller

    What I don’t understand is why are those huts are so tiny that a girl suffocates to death? Couldn’t they at least make the hurts big enough so the women wouldn’t die of how uncomfortable they are while being quarantined and shamed?? Not that it’s a solution but I’m just thinking loud, you know? I’m just really at a loss for words. Sorry!

    • They don’t die from the huts. Usually women who have died while in a menstrual hut have been attacked by wild animals or by other people. In this scenario, they think Dambara Upadhyay died of a heart attack. But because she was away from the family, no one could get her help.

  17. Roberta Bennett

    This isn’t happening only in Nepal, there are many other places where this menstrual quarantine is still a thing! It’s crazy how so many women of so many cultures let this happen to them. Why can’t they stand up for themselves? What are they so scared of? Or do they also believe that menstruating is something to be ashamed of? Makes you think……

    • I think that these women honestly believe that if they don’t follow this practice, something bad will happen to their family. If you’re raised believing this, and everyone you know believes this, then it’s hard to say “no, I won’t do this because it isn’t true.” In the case of Dambara Upadhyay, her family-in-law that night actually told her that she could sleep inside that night, that it had been long enough. But Dambara Upadhyay, wanting to protect her family, slept outside for one more night just to be safe.

  18. Camila Hilhorst

    My question is… Do these men who do this to their wives and daughters even feel a piece of love towards them? How can a loving father or a husband send his loved one to one of those huts? I just don’t get it. I don’t think it takes much of education to be aware that it’s nothing but torture. I just think that they don’t care for women. It’s a shame.

    • I don’t necessarily think that’s true. The thing to remember here is that this is a tradition based on superstition. Everyone (men and women alike) in these communities believes that if a woman sleeps inside while menstruating, something really terrible will happen. They just don’t want bad things to happen, and that’s why this tradition continues. But, yes I do agree it takes education to change this.

  19. Leah Helms

    Big thanks for sharing this information! Never heard of this before, and wouldn’t have heard about it if it wasn’t for this article. I’ll do my best to try and spread awareness of this tragedy Nepal women are going through. Hopefully the more people hears about it, the more support and help the cause will get, and those women will finally find some freedom and comfort.

  20. Helena Stevens

    This is all cause of lack of education. I honestly don’t think these women themselves know the first thing about their menstruation, or else they wouldn’t be letting their men do this to them.

    • It is definitely because of lack of education, which is why groups like the Surya Social Service Society are so important. The thing is, they’re not really “letting” the men do this to them. The women believe in this superstition as much as the men do, so they seclude themselves to these menstrual huts for fear of something bad happening to the family.

  21. Sabrina Wellington

    HORRIBLE! Some cultural traditions, including this, are just so incredibly messed up. I feel so bad for those women. I hope a change can be made, and I’d love to be a part of the power that makes this change happen.

  22. Teresa Tanner

    This is so heart wrenching. How can I help? I’d love to help! These stupid so called traditions need to be stopped!

  23. Delilah Peyton

    Oh, my! Women would definitely die of bacterial infection because of this tradition!

  24. Ingrid Winston

    Such an eye opener. Thanks for writing about it.

  25. Amelia Beckons

    It’s a torment NOT a tradition!

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