A 19-year-old Nepali woman has died after being bitten by a venomous snake in a shanty designated for menstruating women and girls, according to CNN.
Tulasi Shahi, from western Nepal’s Dailekh district, was exiled to the so-called “menstruation hut” while on her period due to the ancient custom of chhaupadi, which forces anyone menstruating to live separately from the rest of the village. Shahi’s chhaupadi took the form of her uncle’s shed where his cattle lived; it was during this time that she was bitten by a snake “twice, on her head and leg,” the local district mayor Surya Bahadur Shahi told CNN.
The teenager’s family unsuccessfully tried treating her at home before taking her to the local clinic, which unfortunately did not carry the required anti-venom medication.
With monsoon season ravaging the area, the three-hour journey to the nearest hospital became an impossibility. Shahi would fight the venom valiantly, only to die a completely preventable death seven hours later.
Shahi’s death is not an isolated event; two months earlier, in the same district, 14-year-old Lalsara Bika died due to complications from a cold-related illness she contracted while sleeping on the frozen ground of another poorly constructed hut. In December of 2016, a 15-year-old girl from Gajra village in the Accham district died of smoke inhalation during her stint in a freezing shack. They join the dozen or more women and girls who have died this decade in isolation due to a biological function that half the world’s population will experience.
“Deaths are usually caused by smoke inhalation, snake bites, (and) lack of basic health care during menstruation,” said Achham district police inspector Badri Prasad Dhakal.
The Nepali government has tried outlawing chhaupadi in an attempt to curb the practice, but activists say it’s not enough.
“What the government has put out is just a guideline. No one can report to police, no one can file a case,” explained Radha Paudel, Nepali writer and menstrual rights activist, “you cannot punish anyone for sending their girls and wives to these huts.“