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Another Death Prompts First Arrest in Age-Old Custom

Brother-in-law arrested in Nepal after woman dies in menstruation hut on cold night
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2019 12:48 PM CST
A file photo of women in Nepal offering prayers on the banks of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu, Nepal.   (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

(Newser) – It's called "chhaupadi," an age-old practice in Nepal in which women are forced out of the home while menstruating and into makeshift huts, even in the bitter cold. The nation outlawed the practice last year, but the custom persists. Now, however, a young woman's death has prompted the first arrest related to chhaupadi, and human rights activists are hoping it signals the start of a real change. Coverage:

  • The death: On Dec. 2, a 21-year-old woman named Parbati Buda Rawat was found dead in the hut outside her home in the western Achham district, reports the New York Times. Authorities say she built a fire in the tiny enclosure to stay warm and died of smoke inhalation. Other young women have died from cold temperatures, physical assaults, suffocation, and even snakebites, reports the BBC.
  • The arrest: Rawat lived in the home with her husband's family, and police say her brother-in-law, 25-year-old Chhatra Rawat, is the one who forced her to go to the hut. Long-held superstition in Nepal holds that menstruating women are considered impure and must be isolated. The brother-in-law is now jailed, though NPR notes the penalty is relatively light even if he's convicted: three months in jail and a fine of about $30.

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