Woman and two sons die in Nepal town in suspected menstrual exile

A woman and her two sons have died in a remote town in Nepal because of a tradition where women are exiled from their homes and forced to live in huts during menstruation, officials say.

The 35-year-old woman and her sons were found dead by family and villagers in a small hut next to their family home on Wednesday morning, said Bajura District chief administrator Chetraj Baral.

He suspected they died of smoke inhalation. Because of the cold in the mountains, they kept a small fire for warmth.

The hut had space that was barely big enough for three people, Mr Baral said, adding parts of the clothes they were wearing were also burnt.

An investigating team has reached Budhinanda, about 250 miles north west of the capital, Kathmandu.

Mr Baral said he is consulting with government lawyers on whether to press charges against the family. The bodies were sent to a nearby town hospital for a post-mortem-examination.

Following the incident, the government is planning to send officials to the area again to educate residents about the practice, he said.

The practice was banned by the Supreme Court in 2005 and a new law criminalised it last year, with violators who force women into exile during menstruation facing up to three months in prison or a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees (£23).

Many menstruating women are still forced to leave their homes and take shelter in unhygienic or insecure huts or cow sheds until their cycle ends.

The custom - called Chhaupadi - continues in many parts of the majority Hindu Himalayan country, especially in the western hills.

While exiled in isolation, some women face bitter cold or attacks by wild animals. Unclean conditions can also cause infections. They also face the possibility of sexual assaults.

- PA

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