In the far western region of Nepal there is a practice called chaupadi. Chaupadi is an ancient Hindu tradition that believes menstruating girls and women to be religiously impure. Women are banned from their homes and all contact with other family members and sent to live in sheds, animal shelters and even crawl spaces. The practice was banned in 2005 but the Achham district in western Nepal is a region so deeply rooted in tradition that the community firmly believes devastating bad luck would befall their families if the tradition were stopped.
The imagined consequences are so dire that few dare to test stopping, even when the practice brings deadly repercussions. There are reports of women dying after being bitten by snakes in the shelters, wild animal attacks, rape and infants dying of pneumonia from the cold. Small children are allowed to stay with their mothers. The temperatures can be so brutally cold they are forced to build fires inside the confined areas for warmth and some have suffocated to death due to poor ventilation.
There is no contact with other people because the fear is that they can contaminate everything. Any food or clothing they might need is tossed to them from a distance. Their diets suffer at a time when nutrition is important. They are only allowed to eat rice and dhal. Drinking milk, eating meat or curd is strictly forbidden for fear that the cows milk would dry up, or their families crops would fail.
While the rituals of chaupadi vary from village to village the overall truth is women and girls accept it as a way of life. Kept alive by tradition and taboo, women are made to believe their monthly cycle is a sin that must be washed away in secret.