Beauty and the beasts

Taradevi Tatma, a 40-year-old widow from Deuri-2, Saptari, was forced to eat human excreta after she was held responsible for practicing witchcraft and causing the death of another village woman. Kanchhi Maya Tamang of Dhulikhel was sexually abused by her father-in-law after she was charged with killing her husband who had lost his life to AIDS. These two women epitomise the sorry plight of widows in Nepal. Single women have to face many discriminatory practices in the name of preserving tradition and culture is our highly patriarchal society.

Private organisations like Women for Human Rights (WHR) have been working to safeguard the rights of single women and provide shelter and care for those discarded by their families and society. But the reach of these bodies is limited while the number of violations continue to tick up. Government initiatives towards this end has been dismal. It is the responsibility of the state to protect the basic human rights of single women, in the same way it looks after the rights of any other citizen. Attention should also go towards rehabilitating the large number of women widowed during the decade-long Maoist conflict. There is much hope for these ill-fated women though. Women make up 33% of the Constituent Assembly. It falls on these women to make sure that their counterparts far from the halls of power get their due share as well.