21/11/2018 11:22 AM IST | Updated 21/11/2018 11:22 AM IST

Taboo Around Periods Kills 13-Year-Old During Cyclone Gaja

The girl was made to sleep in a shed outside her home because she was menstruating.

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Residents clear away fallen trees near a train station in Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu.

In yet another tragic fallout of society's biases against women and their natural bodily functions, a 13-year-old girl belonging to Anaikaadu village near Pattukottai in Tamil Nadu was killed during cyclone Gaja after she began menstruating for the first time.

Despite warnings from the government asking people to stay inside their homes, the girl was made to sleep in a shed outside her house according to custom.

A tree fell on the shed, killing the girl and gravely injuring her mother who was sleeping with her.

Pattukottai DSP Ganesamoorthy told The News Minute that in that area, it was "tradition" to make girls who began menstruating stay in thatched huts outside their homes and then perform rituals before bringing them inside.

Unfortunately for the girl, this cost her her life. This is a glaring example of how, in India, making sure traditions are followed takes precedence over the autonomy and safety of women.

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Kavya Menon, Head for Project safe active periods, AWARE India, told The News Minute, "It is common practice for women in villages to move into a different room and to be isolated when they are menstruating... 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."

The news comes even as neighbouring Kerala has been witnessing disturbances almost every day after a Supreme Court order said women of all ages could visit the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta.

Ayyappa, the presiding deity of the temple, is believed to be a brahmachari (celibate) and women between the ages 10 and 50 have not been allowed inside the temple for years. Many Ayyappa devotees and RSS workers, both men and women, have been blocking roads and attacking women who try to make the pilgrimage, so much so that no woman in the age group has managed to enter the temple since the judgment.