Nepal faced urgent calls on Monday to stop women being banished from their homes during their periods after a teenager died sleeping in a hut, becoming the fourth victim in weeks.
Parbati Bogati, 17, suffocated after lighting a fire to keep warm in the windowless mud and stone hut she had been made to sleep in under the centuries-old Hindu practice of “chhaupadi”, which remains prevalent in Nepal despite an official ban.
Her death last week came after a woman and her two young sons died in similar circumstances, prompting a parliamentary investigation and leading local officials to warn families they would be denied state benefits if found practising chhaupadi.
Human rights activists said the government was still not doing enough to stop the practice.
“The punishment is not enough and the government lacks specific policies to eliminate chhaupadi,” said Mohna Ansari, a member of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission.
“The existing laws must be revised and a clear plan to end the practice must be formulated and implemented.”
Chhaupadi was outlawed in 2005, yet it remains prevalent in Nepal’s remote west and leaves women at risk of snake bites, attacks by wild animals and rape.
Some communities fear misfortune, such as a natural disaster, if menstruating women and girls are not sent away.