A 14-year-old girl in Southern India was killed by a cyclone after being separated from her family during her first period as part of an archaic religious ritual.
When a Cyclone, and Taboo Around Menstruation, Took a Young Girl's Life
A class 7 student,Vijaya was made to stay alone in a hut when Cyclone Gaja descended on Tamil Nadu as she was on her period. She died after a coconut tree fell on the hut.
When will the society change pic.twitter.com/xI1qoiGBaI
— Swatz (@MeSwatz) November 21, 2018
Every six months or so, we hear about another case like this, usually in or around India. Just last year, for instance, a young girl was killed after being sent to a monthly “menstruation hut” in Nepal. Then there was a similar story circulating earlier this year.
In this case, the girl was exiled to a hut while she menstruated for the first time, a situation that left her in peril when a natural disaster struck the community.
Vijaya Lakshmi, 14, was segregated from her family in Tamil Nadu province when Cyclone Gaja struck. She had just gotten her period for the first time.
Her family, from a village near the town of Pattukottai, was following a belief held by some Hindus in India that women are impure during their periods and should be separated from the rest of the family. Often focused on as a rural issue, the practice also occurs in cities and towns.
At least 40 people have died since Cyclone Gaja hit Tamil Nadu in mid-November, and the storm has also caused widespread damage.
While the storm raged, Vijaya’s family remained inside a separate building nearby and survived, but a tree fell on the hut where she was staying. Vijaya’s body was found the following day when the cyclone had passed.
It goes without saying that this ritual is ridiculous. Menstruation is natural; no one needs to be cast aside while it occurs regardless of tradition. How many children have to die before believers do away with this outdated and sexist religious practice?
Education is true sense is missing. How can they do this? Also, it was her first time!!! Instead of proper food and rest…she had to go through all these and ultimately die. �It's high time that this issue is seriously addressed. I doubt if her soul wl rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/YKlompiRBo
— Aditee Mitra (@mitra_aditee29) November 20, 2018
It’s not just a problem because of the cyclone. Women have died from asphyxiation, fire, and even snake bites during their separation periods. To make matters worse, the issue has largely been ignored, including by prominent women within the government.
In Lakshmi’s case, it seems her grandma actually tried to prevent her death… to no avail.
Her grandmother, S. Visalakshi, told BBC News, “We are shattered.”
The grandmother said she had tried to persuade the family to move the girl to a different location before the cyclone hit. “When we saw the tree, we lost hope. We waited for villagers to help us remove the tree and pull her out of the hut,” she said.
Vijaya was taken to the hospital, but doctors pronounced her dead on arrival.
“Girls who are left alone are more vulnerable,” Kavya Menon, a trustee with charity AWARE India, which works to promote safe menstrual hygiene, told the News Minute. “The whole community is responsible for this death and it cannot be pinned on the Gaja cyclone. Her death is a result of societal violence against women.”
This is a problem with an obvious solution. It’s too bad believers don’t see it as an option. They’d rather cling to sexism, faith, and ignorance.
(Featured screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Monique for the link)