To be a girl in Nepali society is not a piece of cake, and I really mean it. You see, by the time one is all giddy with the thought of bringing a new life to this world, the mother-to-be is bombarded with comments like 'it should be a boy', 'eat this, and your chance of giving birth to a boy will increase' and 'should we go to our guru to plead for the birth of a baby boy?' Our society has always emphasised the birth of a baby boy over a girl. A home or family with a single daughter or two daughters welcomes eyes of pity or numerous opinions from the society. There's this deep patriarchal mentality embedded in us that the birth of a boy would mean comfortable old age or an opportunity to earn that golden ticket to heaven in the afterlife.
There's a saying that goes like this: "chhori ta pariah dhan po ho ta" (a girl is someone else's property). Having a daughter as one's only heir is never a choice because no sane person would want to carry the life-long burden of raising a daughter. Educating her is still a big no-no in many parts of this society. The rule of thumb is that a girl child has to spend her whole life trying to prove her worth, trying to prove that she is as good as or even better than a son.
Even if the baby girl is happily welcomed to this world, society tries its best to make her life miserable in every way possible.
Her worth is then measured by her beauty, her fair skin, her curvaceous body and the number of boys she can appeal to (After all a daughter is someone else's property, therefore, we have to give her to a suitor).No amount of degrees, gold medals or bank status will make her a decent daughter until and unless she is married.
A rebellious daughter is considered to be ill-mannered, often labelled as "chhada" (rude or uncivil). A girl by birth is taught to be polite, to never ever question the norms set by the society. Behind the façade of so-called "equality" she is countlessly brainwashed to settle for less.
Then puberty hits her, and it is a battle on its own. A menstruating girl in Nepali society is considered impure. As if she has committed a sin, she is caged inside her own house for five days. Don't touch this, don't touch "him" as it would make everything impure.
It's time for marriage now.
Maybe life will be all rosy after marriage because that was the ultimate goal, wasn't it? But wait, there's a catch to this. Even after marriage, her struggle to prove her worth hasn't come to an end.
To be a daughter-in-law of 32 virtues, she spends her entire life pleasing and fulfilling her husband's desires and her inlaw's wishes. The question is, when will she ever prove her self-worth?
A version of this article appears in the print on April 9, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.