Nepal makes first arrest over 'menstrual hut' death

Police believe brother-in-law banished victim to hut where she suffocated after lighting a fire for warmth

Thomson Reuters Foundation December 06, 2019
Women are silhouetted as they offer daily prayers at a temple in Bhaktapur, Nepal, in December 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

KATHMANDU: Police in Nepal have arrested the brother-in-law of a woman who died after she was banished to a 'menstrual hut', the first such arrest in the Himalayan nation as it seeks to end the practice.

The body of Parbati Buda Rawat, 21, was found on Monday after she lit a fire to keep warm in a mud and stone hut and suffocated in Nepal's western Achhan district, the latest victim of the centuries-old, "chhaupadi" custom, outlawed in 2005.

"This is the first time we have arrested any person in connection with a death under the chhaupadi custom," Achham's chief district officer, Bhoj Raj Shrestha, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The custom remains prevalent in Nepal's remote west where some communities fear misfortune, such as a natural disaster, unless menstruating women and girls - seen as impure - are sent away to animal sheds or huts.

Nepal criminalises isolation of menstruating women

Police official Janak Shahi said Chhatra Rawat, 25, a brother-in-law of the dead woman, was arrested in the district capital, Mangalsen, to investigate if he was responsible in sending her to the illegal hut, and he may later be charged.

If found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to three months in jail and a fine of up to 3,000 Nepali rupees ($26).

A village in the neighbouring Doti district this week announced a financial reward of 5,000 rupees for each woman who refuses to be confined to a hut during her period, in the hope this would deter her family from attempting to banish her again.

Outrage led to a parliamentary investigation into chhaupadi after a teenage girl and a mother and her young sons died in two similar incidents earlier this year.

($1 = 114.7400 Nepalese rupees)


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