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Why Some Women Die During Their Period

Having a period already sucks. Now imagine if you had to do this too…


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.

Reader Discussion: 50 Comments

  1. Francis Woods

    Would menstruation be less offensive if Nepalese women use tampons or menstrual pads? Is the government making any attempts to educate these communities?

  2. Kaye Ward

    Why these practices persist is rooted in religion. I am surrounded by Orthodox Jews who cannot touch a menstruating woman, or even sit in a chair she has sat in. I hear of infertility due to restrictions on the number of days required after cessation of menses before intercourse is allowed. Let’s not be so indignant with Nepalese superstitions yet accept as multiculturalism the superstitions right here in Brooklyn.

  3. Helena Sanders

    I’m sad and disheartened that a beautiful country like Nepal is practicing a cruel tradition.

    • Barbie

      For me, the most heartbreaking part is that women actually believe that they are “impure” and could bring a curse on the household if they remain indoors. I’m sad that they are accepting this tradition as “normal.”

  4. Zoe Jones

    This article broke my heart ? This superstitious practice has existed for so long which leads people to believe it’s true anyways. So it has become a part of their lives. Very, very sad

    • Susan Phemister

      It’s hard to imagine such dangerous tradition is still prevalent in some parts of the world. Menstruation is a natural part of being a “female,” why would any culture think it’s evil?

  5. Poor girls are tormented… How do they escape from such valued cultural tradition?

  6. Chris Heinemeier


  7. This is no longer a cultural issue but a human rights issue! Women all over the world are entitled the right to live with dignity, respect, and confidence.

    • Leyds Lacsamana

      This horror visited upon young women, particularly, makes me wonder what we (as non-Nepalis) can do to support the women and girls living through it. It also dispels the quaint, wistful, yet somewhat condescending notion that many of us carry of the bucolic bliss of “simpler” cultures.

  8. Andrea Clark

    Oh wow! Super scary! Menstruation is perhaps one of the most ordinary individual female experiences, but it feels like a CURSE in Nepal! Terrible ?????

  9. You can become anemic from blood loss during your period. If you soak up more than 2 pads in an hour, go to the ER.

  10. Sasha Smith

    Hi Hillary,
    Upon reading this article, I felt mixed emotions: angry, sad and uncomfortable! We often talk about how, in many parts of the world, period stigma prevents girls from working or getting an education. Sometimes, though, taboos surrounding menstruation can even turn deadly. 🙁

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