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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…

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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.

Reader Discussion: 65 Comments

  1. And most of us think that we have it bad when we don’t get to eat the food we’re craving for during our periods. I’m puzzled about how these women die in those huts though, aside from the fire that you mentioned. It must be really so uncomfortable to feel like it’s your fault that you’re bleeding and you’re forced to sleep in a hut and not in a proper mattress. I wish there was a way to help these women or to at least find a way for those people to realize that having a period doesn’t make women dirty nor it is a curse.

    • Tanushri

      I know, right? We think we have it worse all the time.

  2. I’m just happy that someone is already trying to change their old traditions. However, this practice needs more support in terms of demolishing it overall. They need to be educated about menstruation really is and that it’s nothing like what they think. I think that with proper education, we can always change what they believe in without trying to mess up with their tradition. It’s a matter of providing them with facts and not just superstitions. Right?

  3. I think it’s their ancestor’s way of saying “Don’t bleed on the couch” in a stupid way.

  4. Marilyn May

    I bet nobody cleans those huts either. These women are forced to bear with these insane circumstances.

  5. Jackie Chavez

    So, they can’t go inside the house at all? What about baths???? OMG….🤬

  6. Sonja Armstrong

    I can’t even imagine how these women get their hygiene products when they’re having their menstruation. These women probably die because of an infection or something. If they treat women like they’re so dirty and can even cause the death of a family member, I don’t think I can put into words how these women don’t have access to tampons, pads or at least menstrual cups. They condemn it so much that I don’t think they could even have the heart to think of getting these women proper menstrual needs.

  7. Erma Sparks

    I would literally shred the person into pieces if I was told to sleep in that hut until my period is gone.

  8. Laverne Pollard

    All of the district and not just the Jumla needs help. Someone in their district should also speak up!!! This is so heartbreaking.

  9. Whoever thought of that crappy idea should try bleeding in their nether regions and sleep in that hut.😤

  10. Jamie Baldwin

    That hut doesn’t even have a proper door, what do you expect? These women will be attacked by animals!! Not only that but what are they to do in colder months??? It’s barely a home to feel comfortable in!

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