Banishment during menstruation a senseless practice that must end: WaterAid

Posted by
Carolynne Wheeler
10 January 2019
Nepal, Girls and women, Periods
Thumbnail WaterAid/Poulomi Basu

For stock photos of chhaupadi huts in Nepal please see this link (photos credited to WaterAid/Poulomi Basu): 

News of the death of a woman and her two sons in rural Nepal after she was banished to a small shed during menstruation must serve to strengthen efforts to banish the practice, WaterAid said today.

Media have reported that a 35-year-old mother and her nine- and seven-year-old sons were most likely suffocated by smoke after a blanket they were using for warmth in the frigid cold caught fire in Nepal’s remote western Bajura district. 

The practice of chhaupadi, or banishment during menstruation, was outlawed by Nepal’s Supreme Court in 2005 and the country’s parliament enshrined it in law in 2017 with penalties of a three-month prison sentence and fine for anyone enforcing the custom. Yet the practice has continued in remote rural communities. Menstruating women are also often forced to eat separately and not permitted to cook or to touch men or livestock, out of a belief they are impure and may bring about catastrophe.

Every year, girls and women banished to rudimentary huts during menstruation die of suffocation from fires lit to keep warm, from attacks by animals or people, or from exposure to the cold.

The Nepalese government has worked with civil society organisations and NGOs including WaterAid to develop a dignified menstruation policy; WaterAid’s work in the region has included ensuring women and girls have access to water and sanitation facilities to manage their menstruation, as well as hygiene promotion, education and training for girls to become peer educators, and with the wider communities toward ending taboos around menstruation.

Thérèse Mahon, regional programme manager for South Asia at WaterAid who has conducted extensive research into menstrual customs and practices, said: 

“More than a decade after this practice was made illegal, women and children are still dying of suffocation, hypothermia, or attack, simply because of the taboos that persist around menstruation. WaterAid has worked with governments, other organisations and with communities to bring an end to this practice. This latest unnecessary and tragic death only strengthens our resolve that further, urgent action is needed. Women have the right to manage their periods in a hygienic and dignified way without fear of stigma or exclusion; it is crucial to women’s rights, wellbeing and gender equality.”


For more information, please contact:

Carolynne Wheeler, news manager, [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 4485, or Fiona Callister, global head of media, [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 5022 

Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected]


WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

  • 844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.[1]

  • 2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]

  • Around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's more than 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]

  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]

  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]

  • To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database


[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines


[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage