MIDWAY: An innocuous incident

An unlikely congruence of time, place and social setting made a Jhapa couple famous overnight, but for all the wrong reasons. The incident could not have been more innocuous. Just married, the hubby wanted to assist his newly-married wife by washing her clothes.

He perpetuated a horrendous crime, it seems. The hubby, instead of being applauded for helping his wife, was thoroughly chastised and warned by his village elders not to “disgrace all men”. Following the incident, he gave up helping his wife on her daily chores. As Kate Chopin once said, “The bird that wants to soar above the plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings”. Apparently, he didn’t. But that’s beside the point.

There are many international laws guaranteeing equal rights for men and women. But having laws is one thing, implementing them, quite the other. It is a sad fact that though women do almost two-thirds of all work, they only get a tenth of the income and own less than one per cent of the world’s property.

In Nepal, too, women have been granted lots of rights that were heretofore the sole preserve of the males. But most of the people are yet to give up their age-old biases against women. And when prejudices are so entrenched, it does not matter what’s on paper. Yes, sharing household burdens might be looked upon in a positive light in Denmark, but in my Dhulabari all that “sissy” males get are approbations and ridicule.

Gender is a fluid concept with vast differences between divergent cultures. But irrespective of its biological determinants, power, by and large, is conditioned by traditional values and social taboos. Undoubtedly, it takes a lot of courage to let go of the familiar prejudices. But as has been witnessed around the world, those who dare speak against social inequity and injustice can and do make a whole lot of difference, for themselves as well as the


Alas, the sorry groom was no Nelson Mandela or Oprah Winfrey. Under pressure, he buckled. One thing is certain though: Until and unless society’s perception of “traditional” gender roles change, women will continue to be used as mere tools, and their helpful hubbies, rendered lesser men.