14-year-old girl dies in Cyclone Gaja after she was made to sleep outside the house because she was on her period
The girl was killed after a coconut tree fell on the hut she was made to sleep in because she was menstruating
A family in Tamil Nadu, India, is now grieving after a 14-year-old girl died during the devastating cyclone Gaja afflicting the state because she was forced to sleep outside the home on grounds of an archaic tradition. The teenager, identified as S. Vijayalakshmi, had been made to sleep in a hut outside her house because of an age-old practice that dictates menstruating women are "impure" and are to be made to sleep separate from their family.
According to the Daily Mail, the incident occurred on November 16 near the village of Anaikudi, located in the Radhapuram Block of Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu. The girl had been sleeping in the hut when the cyclone made landfall, resulting in a coconut tree falling on the structure and trapping her underneath the rubble.
14-year-old Vijaya was made to stay alone in a hut when Cyclone Gaja descended on Tamil Nadu as she was on her period. https://t.co/dKlAeKeVxS— The Wire (@thewire_in) November 20, 2018
Villagers and concerned family members could do little to aid Vijayalakshmi and by the time they managed to get to her, it proved to be too late. The teenager was rushed to a local hospital in the hope that doctors could resuscitate her, only to be informed that she had already passed away hours before.
Her family, who were living in a more fortified house next door, survived the cyclone, with grandmother S. Visalakshi telling the BBC that the 14-year-old's parents knew the storm was approaching but couldn't move her elsewhere as they lived in a coconut grove that was isolated from the rest of the village. "I told them to take her to a different place," she told the channel. "But within hours, the cyclone had struck and we couldn't move anywhere."
"We are shattered," she added. "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."
Cyclone Gaja hits Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.. pic.twitter.com/X4GY1FJIJo— Purnendu Rath (@RathPurnendu) 16 November 2018
The death has come as a shock to villagers, with some suggesting that it might finally serve as a "wake up call" to end a practice that is surprisingly common in the country. A local social activist admitted as much, telling the BBC that the tradition was not just restricted to underprivileged families but also adopted by rich ones as well.
Cyclone Gaja has already resulted in the deaths of 46 people across the state and destroyed more than 80,000 hectares of farmland across 12 different districts, according to official estimates. Homes, crops, and fishing boats have been consumed by the tropical storm as well, with allegations of mismanagement of disaster relief allocations rife as well.
Local officials deny the claims and say sufficient water, food and blankets have been provided in all the 493 relief camps set up across the coastal state.