A Nepali mother and her two children have died of suspected smoke inhalation during her stay at a windowless hut where women are usually banished during their period, police said Wednesday, AFP has reported.
Many communities in Nepal consider women impure during menstruation, forcing mothers and daughters to stay in sheds away from their family home once a month, despite the practice being outlawed.
Amba Bohara, 35, fell asleep in a hut in western Bajura district on Tuesday evening with her two sons aged 12 and nine, according to police reports, affirming that the trio had huddled around a fire to stay warm in Nepal's freezing winter conditions.
Local police chief Uddhab Singh Bhat said the woman's mother-in-law opened the hut the next day to find all three dead.
"We are waiting for the results of a postmortem to confirm the cause of death, but believe they died of suffocation," Bhat said.
The ongoing investigations found parts of the blankets sheltering the trio were burned, and Bohara had suffered burns to her legs.
The ancient practice known as "chhaupadi" was outlawed in 2005. However, it is still followed in parts of Nepal, particularly its remote and conservative western regions.
Last year, Kathmandu introduced a three-month jail sentence and a 3,000-rupee ($30) fine for anyone caught imposing chhaupadi.
The chhaupadi practice is linked to Hinduism and considers women untouchable during menstruation and after childbirth. The tradition bars women from touching food, religious icons, cattle and men during their period and they must sleep away from others.
The death of Bohara and her children is not the first recorded fatality linked to the practice. Last year, a 21-year-old woman died in the same way at a chhaupadi hut, and other women have died from snake bites in the past.
The country's National Human Rights Commission has urged security authorities to do more to enforce the law.
"Women will continue to die unless there are consequences for enforcing this tradition," said the commission's Mohna Ansari.