A poster used to educate girls about menstruation and female reproductive system. File picture: Stefan Heunis/AFP

Kathmandu, Nepal - A woman has died in a remote village in Nepal because of a tradition in which women are exiled from their homes and forced to live in huts during menstruation, a government official said Friday.

The 21-year-old is believed to have died from smoke inhalation from a fire she lit in the hut to keep warm in the freezing temperatures in the mountain village, said government administrator Tul Bahadur Kawcha.

The woman was found dead on Monday.

Kawcha said the tradition is still practiced in some remote villages despite a government ban on the practice and a law introduced last year to punish people who force women to follow the custom.

The new law goes into effect in August this year, with violators who force women into exile during menstruation facing up to three months in prison or a fine of 3 000 Nepalese rupees ($29).

Many menstruating women are still forced to leave their homes and take shelter in unhygienic or insecure huts or cow sheds until their cycle ends, though the practice - called "Chhaupadi" - was actually outlawed a decade ago. But without any penalties, the custom continued in many parts of the majority Hindu Himalayan country, especially in the western hills.

While exiled in isolation, some women face bitter cold or attacks by wild animals. Unclean conditions can also cause infections.