Men offered £400 to marry Nepal's widows

Hundreds of women march through Kathmandu over 'humiliating' scheme

Andrew Buncombe,Asia Correspondent
Tuesday 11 August 2009 00:00
Comments

Women protesters have marched through the streets of Kathmandu in their hundreds after the government announced a "humiliating" scheme to offer financial incentives for men to marry widows.

The scheme has been deemed necessary by the government of Nepal in part because of the 10-year-long civil war that claimed up to 13,000 lives and widowed many women. Such women are widely ostracised and discriminated against in the conservative country. In such circumstances, the government said that by offering grants of 50,000 Nepali rupees (£395), unmarried men would be persuaded to wed widows to help re-integrate them into society.

But campaigners say the scheme would not only turn women into cash cows but would be open to abuse by human traffickers. They warn that in Nepal women are traded for as little as 5,000 rupees. Lily Thapa, founder of the group Women for Human Rights (WHR) and one of the organisers of the rally, said: "It's totally humiliating for the women. We do not want this. It's against our human rights."

Ms Thapa set up WHR after her husband was killed while serving with UN peacekeeping forces in 1991. She said widows in Nepal were routinely discriminated against, particularly in rural areas, and were prevented from wearing colourful clothes or attending important events as they were considered bad luck. "In the West you have no idea of the cultural code that goes on here. If women want to wear a colourful dress that is their right."

She said the government's proposal would not help the situation and would be open to abuse by traffickers.

The opposition Maoist political party has opposed the offer on similar grounds. Campaigners say the cash payments may encourage men to marry a widow only to abandon her once they had received the money. They say the government would do better to spend the money on projects to help educate and empower women in Nepal. Some say the money should be paid directly to the widows without any demand that they marry.

Yesterday, several hundred women marched through the country's capital waving banners that read: "We don't want government dowries" and: "Don't put a price on your mother". Women came from across the country, some complaining the proposed grants had made their lives harder as men were treating them differently.

Jayanti, 25, from Nepalgunj told the MyRepublica news website: "There are many of us who are young and want to remarry but our main concerns are our children," she said. "This one-time provision is not enough to raise our children and provide them with proper education. Moreover, there is no guarantee that we will even get to use the money."

Nepal's civil war pitched Maoist guerrillas against government forces, and they created a generation of struggling widows in an already impoverished country. The war ended in late 2006 after the Maoists agreed to re-enter the political mainstream as part of a peace deal which saw the country become a republic. Last year's elections handed power to the Maoists but they stood down from the government in May after a row over the integration of former guerrillas into the national army. The Maoists remain outside the government, and the country has suffered considerable political turmoil and uncertainty.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in