Banished During Her Period, 18-Year-Old Dies of Snakebite
Nepali practice has claimed other lives
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2017 8:13 AM CDT
Devotees light oil lamps near the Bagmati River in Katmandu, Nepal, in a Hindi ceremony during which women atone for the days they are "defiled" by menstruation.   (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

(Newser) – Every month, 18-year-old Tulasi Shahi was among Nepali women and girls banished to a "menstruation hut." This time the shunning was fatal after Shahi was bitten by a poisonous snake, the New York Times reports. Shahi's mother took her first to a shaman and then to a clinic, which didn't have the anti-venom she needed. She died on Friday, seven hours after she was bitten, per AFP. Monsoon rains had made the three-hour trip from Dailekh, in the far west, to the nearest hospital nearly impossible, per CNN. "If she was given proper treatment, she would have survived,” her cousin, Kamala Shahi, tells the Times. "She died because of superstition." Although the Nepal Supreme Court outlawed the practice, called chhaupadi, in 2005, the custom still going strong in many isolated villages, where menstruating women and girls are seen as unclean and bearers of bad luck.

In May, a 14-year-old girl sent to a cow hut died from exposure to severe cold while in seclusion, per CNN. Last year, two females died during chhaupadi, including one 15-year-old who died of smoke inhalation after lighting a fire to keep warm, per Al Jazeera. Human rights groups say other deaths probably go unreported. One report found that, depending on region, 19% to 50% of Nepali women practiced chhaupadi, per the Times. The Nepali parliament is expected to take up a bill to criminalize the practice, but one activist tells Al Jazeera the government is "largely indifferent and has not put the issue as a priority." Leading writer and activist Radha Paudel tells CNN, "Our girls and women are dying and the state is turning a blind eye." (More on the girl who died of smoke inhalation.)

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