First arrest over ‘Chhau hut’ death made

Kathmandu, December 5

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 Achham 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.

Police official Janak Shahi said Chhatra Rawat, 25, brother-in-law of the dead woman, was arrested to investigate if he was responsible for sending her to the illegal hut.

If found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to three months in jail and fined up to Rs 3,000.

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