Pattukottai: 12-year-old Vijaya was asked to sleep outside the house in a barn shed during Cyclone Gaja. She had, for the first time, begun menstruating three days before the cyclone hit Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu. The incident occurred at Anaikkadu village, where it is a traditional practise to make menstruating women stay away from the family for at least a week, said Pattukkottai deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Ganesamoorthy, who added that on the completion of a week, the girl is generally asked to step into the home after the rituals are done.

The Indian Meteorological department had sent several warnings regarding the impact of Cyclone Gaja. Nevertheless, the family decided to stay true to their tradition. During the cyclone, an uprooted tree fell on the thatched barn room and killed the child. Her mother, who was sleeping next to her, was injured and admitted to the Pattukottai government hospital.   

Head of Project safe active periods, AWARE India, Kavya Menon, said that the death was a result of the systematic violence that women face in the community. According to reports, the old hut where Vijaya stayed was a barn where cows and goats were tied. On attaining puberty, she was asked to stay in the barn for 16 days in isolation.               

Menon added that the death of Vijaya cannot be pinned to Cyclone Gaja, but is the fault of the societal violence faced by women during menstruation. The entire community is to be blamed for the death, she said.