Menstrual huts are certainly useful for keeping bleeding women out of sight when they're "unclean," if that's your thing. And they're a good way for women to commune with their fellow bleeders, but it turns out they also appear to be a sneaky way for men to keep tabs on their woman and make sure she doesn't have babies with another man.
Beverly Strassmann, of the University of Michigan, has done extensive study on the Dogon people of Mali, where women who practice the traditional Dogon religion spend five days a month around the time they have their period in a "menstrual hut." Strassmann did paternity testing on 1700 Dogon father and son pairs (some of whom were Christian or Muslim), and she discovered that those who followed the traditional religion were four times less likely to be raising someone else's son than those who were Christians. Wow, those wild and crazy Christians.
So what does a menstrual hut have to do with wives cheating on their husbands and secretly having other men's babies? Well, it seems that because the huts are so visible, it makes it easy for husbands to track their wives menstrual cycle and fertile periods. It may not mean they could make their wife any less likely to cheat on them while they're fertile, but at least they would know when to impregnate her so that someone else couldn't get in there first, I suppose? What's especially interesting is that the Muslim fathers had the same statistics as those following the traditional Dogon religion, which is likely explained by the fact that Muslim women have to tell their husbands when they menstruate. So they'd have a similar knowledge of the wives' fertility windows. So the huts aren't even necessary—unless your aim is simply to keep that unsightly menstrual blood out of your home.
Menstrual huts protect Dogon men from cuckoldry [New Scientist]
Image via stormarn/Shutterstock.