April 8, 2019
On the outskirts of Sitatoli, a village in India’s Gadchiroli district, stands a doorless, ramshackle 8’x8’ mud hut. There’s no window or electricity. A broken bed with threadbare sheets is its only furniture. A bucket, garbage, and broken bricks are strewn in one corner. Banana leaves separate a makeshift washroom in another. The structure is only a few feet away from a dense jungle and wild bears. This is the period hut where menstruating women are sent every month.
“These huts are the most difficult to survive during monsoons,” said Chetna Madavi, a 25-year-old woman from Sitatoli. “The rainwater pours in from the unsteady bamboo roof, and mosquitoes gather because of all the dirt. If multiple women get their periods at the same time, we have to spend the nights crouching so we can dodge the leaking roof. Of course, we cannot leave the hut. We are not allowed to enter the village during these four days.”
Menstrual huts are a common practice in South Asia, and can be deadly. In February 2019, 21-year-old Parbati Bogati died in her sleep from inhaling smoke in a windowless ‘period hut’ in Nepal, after lighting a fire to stave off freezing temperatures. Her death is the fourth menstrual hut tragedy reported in the Hindu-majority country in 2019, even though the Nepalese Supreme Court banned the centuries-old tradition in 2005, and its parliament criminalized the practice in August 2018.