Gagandeep Kaur in Delhi tells us more about those huts where women are isolated because they’re menstruating.

Poornima Javardhan, 25, felt dread and trepidation as she got ready to spend five days in a gaokor – a hut outside her village where girls and women are banished during menstruation.

“During the rainy season, it is all the more difficult to stay in a gaokor because water comes inside and sometimes the roof leaks,” says Javardhan, who lives in Sitatola, a village in central India’s Maharashtra state. Each month, custom dictates that she must stay in the thatched hut on the edge of a forest, sometimes on her own, or, if she’s lucky, with another woman.

There are no kitchens, because bleeding women aren’t allowed to cook. A thick sheet on the ground is the only bed; during the day it’s folded to serve as a chair. The huts are isolated, so forest animals pay visits; there are reports of women dying from snakebites.

The practice of banishing women and girls is most prevalent among the Gond and Madiya ethnic groups. The Gonds are the largest indigenous group in central India and hail from the states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

Girls miss school while they are in the huts. An estimated 23% of girls in India drop out of school when they start menstruating. “Many times a menstruating girl is unable to take her exams because of this practice. It means that few girls from this region study beyond matriculation [high school],” says Barsagade.

They have to stay there for five days.

There are two gaokors in Sitatola, home to about 20 families. Although there have been incidents of harassment, women are generally left alone because they are considered impure while they have their periods. There have been moves to improve the conditions of the gaokors, but not to end the practice.

It’s very important not to rape a woman when she’s impure. Keep that for when she’s not bleeding.

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