The Indian taboos around menstruation are so strong that they can claim lives, or in fact, have. A 12-year-old girl from Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu was found dead after a coconut tree fell on her. The girl was made to sleep outside because she was menstruating! The teenager was made to sleep outside in the barn because she was "impure." The incident took place on November 12, at a time when there were already warnings about the cyclonic winds. Cyclone Gaja Kills 20, Houses and Electric Poles Damaged, Nagapattinam Worst Hit.
12-year-old Vijaya from Anaikkadu village was on her first period. Branded as impure, she was made to sleep in a barn outside the house, despite clear warnings from the Meteorological department to stay safe from Cyclone Gaja. The girl was accompanied by her mother in a room that was behind the house. The mother too is injured and is admitted to a government hospital for recovery. The girl has unfortunately lost her life. Chhattisgarh: Women Forced to Live in 'Menstruation House' when Chumming.
Despite trying to creating awareness about periods and remove the taboo that surrounds the biologically natural phenomenon, it still remains intact in the rural parts of the country. Since Vijaya attained puberty, a situation that should have been respected or welcomed, she was asked to move out for being impure. Talking about the "customs" Pattukottai DSP Ganesamoorthy informed The New Indian Express, "This is some tradition in this side of the state. When a girl comes of age, the family asks her to stay separately in a thatched hut for at least a week. She is asked to come inside the house only after the rituals are done on completion of a certain number of days. It varies from community to community."
What's more shocking is that the girl was supposed to stay in isolation for 16 days! The men of the house were not supposed to meet her. To accommodate her in the barn area, the cows and goats were tied outside. Blaming the cyclonic winds alone for Vijaya's death is wrong. The bigger problem lies underneath is the mindset of the people. Cyclone Gaja made a landfall in Nagapattinam on November 16 and has claimed close to 50 lives. But the issue of Vijaya losing her life also marks the sad state of awareness among the people, costing precious lives.