Teen Dies From Snake Bite After Being Sent to Menstruation Shed In Nepal

An unrelated woman tending to her goats in Nepal. Image
via Getty.

Last week, an 18-year-old named Tulasi Shahi died from a
snakebite in her village in western Nepal. She had been sent to
sleep in the shed where her uncle keeps his cows because she
was menstruating, part of a tradition called chhaupadi that
isolates women on their periods from the family.

The New York Times reports that Shahi was
bitten by a snake while inside the shed. According to NPR,
Shahi had started out in the usual chhaupadi hut, but it too
had a snake in it, which prompted her move to the cow shed. Her
mother brought her to a shaman, then eventually to a health
clinic that had no antivenom to treat her with. She died on her
way to the hospital on Friday.

The practice of chhaupadi, which is based on the belief that
menstruating women are impure, was outlawed by Nepal’s Supreme
Court in 2005 for being a human rights violation, but a
study from 2010 found that
19% of Nepalese women practice it generally. The number is
closer to 50% in the area where Shahi lived. A nearby western
district called Jumla sets it at 74%. According to a story from
Aljazeera about another Nepali girl who suffocated in a chhaupadi hut in 2016, local
leaders don’t enforce the ban, though some women have revolted
and burned down the huts, declaring areas “chhaupadi-free
zones.”

The NYT says that officials in
Shahi’s area know of another girl who died of a snakebite while
in a chhaupadi hut just six weeks prior. There is currently a
law pending in Parliament that would not just ban the practice,
but criminalize it. Shahi’s family told the NYT that
she didn’t have an objection to the practice:

“I think my sister accepted it and followed it because it has
been continuing since ages,” said her brother Prem Shahi, 24.
“I think she accepted it because my grandmother followed it
and my mother followed it.”

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