For nearly a week every month, 15-year-old Prakriti is forbidden from touching her family members or entering the kitchen because she is believed to be highly infectious. Prakriti isn’t actually sick at all. In Nepal, menstruating women are often referred to as “untouchable” and they must follow strict rules .
Prakriti thinks these beliefs are ridiculous and she often refuses to follow the menstruation rules. But her rebellion has a high price. When Prakriti’s father was sick and the doctor couldn’t find a cause for his illness, a priest blamed Prakriti. The priest said she’d touched her father while she was menstruating, infuriating the gods and causing her father to be cursed.
Prakriti is a modern teenager. She lives in Kathmandu and is studying for her SATs. She wears trendy clothing and hopes to attend a prestigious college abroad. One day, she hopes to become the Prime Minister of Nepal. Her family supports her dreams and believes education is important, but they are also superstitious.
In Nepal, some people believe that menstruating women are so weak that viruses come out of their mouths and limbs. Fears around menstruation aren’t unique to Hinduism. In Christianity, menstruating women were once considered dangerous. And some Orthodox Jews still believe that men and women should not touch when a woman has her period.
In many rural parts of Nepal, menstruating women are forced to sleep in poorly made sheds. At night, they face the threat of snakes and men seeking to take advantage of their vulnerability. Several women have been found dead after a night in the sheds. The cause of death is usually smoke inhalation from attempting to stay warm or an attack by a wild animal. Even though the Supreme Court of Nepal made it illegal to force women into these sheds, many villagers in rural areas still do it. They want to avoid upsetting the gods.
While most Nepalese women feel that they are powerless when it comes to this ancient tradition, Prakriti is determined to change things. After she was blamed for her father’s illness she began studying menstruation. She believes that menstruation should not be looked at as taboo but as a woman’s superpower. She’s even written a novel about it called, Imposter.
Even though her parents think that it’s funny that their daughter has written such a book, Prakriti takes herself very seriously and she dreams very big. What she wants more than anything is to make sure that women are no longer viewed as “untouchable” for something so natural.