Nepal | November 27, 2020

Single women still face social discrimination

Sabitri Dhakal
Share Now:

Kathmandu, June 24

Mala Devi Jaiswal, 42, a resident of Rautahat, could not take part in her daughter’s marriage ceremony rituals. She was told her participation would be ‘inauspicious’ because she happened to be a widow.

“I felt bad and discriminated yet I couldn’t say anything,” said Jaiswal.

In patriarchal Nepali society, where women are still fighting for equal rights, a woman who has lost her husband faces even more discrimination. The oppressive social norms bar widows from wearing whatever she likes: Red-coloured clothes are a big ‘no’. She cannot move freely, take part in religious ceremonies or remarry. A widow also faces difficulty in claiming her husband’s property and is taunted by in-laws as she is blamed for her husband’s death.

Sakuntala Yadav, 39, a resident of Siraha, whose husband disappeared 14 years ago, has raised two children on her own since then. For her children’s further studies she needs money. But she has not been able to claim her husband’s property. “I fear my younger son won’t be able to get his citizenship if I ask for my share of property from the in-laws,” she said.

Yadav had to produce 25 villagers as witnesses before the local authority to enable her elder son to get a citizenship. Now, her younger son has become eligible for citizenship. But in Nepal, only a father or his family members have to be present at the ward and district offices to get the document. “If I take legal recourse to get my share of property, my in-laws will trouble me when my child initiates the process of obtaining citizenship,” she said.

In-laws of most of widows use lack of financial acumen and chances of misuse of assets as pretexts to deny property rights to single women. But in reality, property is generally used as a bargaining tool to provide citizenships to their offspring.

“My son probably would not have received his citizenship certificate had it not been for my brother in-law,” said Sashi Devi Bhatta, a resident of Dharmasthali, Kathmandu, who lost her husband 19 years ago.

Nepal has seen significant political changes over the years and participation of women has gone up in the Parliament as well government offices. But rigid social structures have not changed.

Yadav, for example, has faced allegations of ‘having an affair’ simply because he has held conversations with men.

“It is sad that we are sometimes not treated as human beings. People often use harsh words and some of the men even follow us and sexually harass us,” said Sita Shrestha, a resident of Janakpur, who lost her husband 11 years ago.

Shrestha once had to hit a man who misbehaved with her when she was returning home from the workplace with her daughter. “It is very difficult to protect your children, especially girls, if you are a single woman,” said Shrestha, a mother of six daughters.

Single women are still barred from vital registration. There is no ownership of property. They are economically dependent. The government has to bring pragmatic programmes that would improve the lot of women at the grassroots level to help them become independent, said Lily Thapa, founder of Women for Human Rights.


A version of this article appears in print on June 25, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Probe committee to investigate on-duty police officer who went out of contact in Kailali

DHANGADHI: A committee has been formed to investigate the chief at Kailali's Malakheti-based Area Police Office (APO), who went out of contact for eight hours on Tuesday night. Chief at the APO, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Bharat Bahadur Chaudhary will be investigated by the committee f Read More...

Rastriya Janamorcha demands stern action against guilty of Bardibas rape, murder case

KATHMANDU: Rastriya Janamorcha has demanded the government to take stern action against the guilty of rape and murder of a six-year-old girl in Bardibas of Mahottari. Issuing a press release today, party spokesperson Durga Poudel said that rape and murder cases taking place continuously in the co Read More...

23 more fatalities registered today, Covid-19 death-toll hits 1,412

KATHMANDU: Twenty-three more fatalities were reported in the last 24 hours with which Nepal’s Covid-19 death-tally has now advanced to 1,412. Meanwhile, 1,614 fresh coronavirus cases as reported today took the nationwide coronavirus case count to 227,640. Over 1.4 million deaths from the dis Read More...

1,614 new cases recorded on Thursday; Nepal’s Covid-19 tally hits 227,640

KATHMANDU: Nepal on Wednesday reported 1,614 new cases of coronavirus infection from across the country. With this, the nationwide infection count has advanced to 227,640. Of the total cases, 640 are females while 974 are males. In the last 24 hours, 785 cases surfaced in Kathmandu Valley of Read More...

German COVID-19 restrictions set to last into 2021

BERLIN: Germany will probably have to stick with measures to dampen the coronavirus pandemic into January, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday, while her chief of staff suggested that restrictions might be needed until March. “Given the high number of infections, we assume that the restrict Read More...

The pandemic is changing Hollywood, maybe forever

NEW YORK: “No New ‘Movies’ Till Influenza Ends” blared a New York Times headline on Oct. 10, 1918, while the deadly second wave of the Spanish Flu was unfolding. A century later, during another pandemic, movies — quotes no longer necessary — are again facing a critical juncture. But i Read More...

India records 44,489 new coronavirus cases

MUMBAI: India recorded 44,489 new coronavirus infections, data from the health ministry showed on Thursday, the 19th straight day that single-day cases have stayed below the 50,000 mark. India's coronavirus tally now stands at 9.27 million, the second-highest in the world, after the United St Read More...

785 additional Covid-19 cases reported in the valley on Thursday

KATHMANDU: The three districts of Kathmandu Valley reported a total of 785 new cases of coronavirus infection on Thursday. Of the new cases, 337 are females and 448 are males. As many as 620 cases were recorded in Kathmandu district while Lalitpur and Bhaktapur reported 114 and 51 cases respec Read More...