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The discussion about the position of women has intensified after the introduction of civil liberties in the early 1990s. A lot of talking is done on the discrimination against women in comparison to male Nepalis. But this has had little consequences towards the legal and social system of the country, so far. Anyway, the decision is to be taken mainly by men, and they find it especially hard to change their approach. It would mean that they, in future, will have to accept women as human beings with equal rights in all matters.
But the government laws and the social rules and traditions are deeply rooted in the microcosm of family and rural community. This is the sphere where the awareness of men and women is shaped in their younger years. And this, exactly, is the place where women can achieve a lot to improve their situation. But little will happen as long as women don’t stick together and, instead, talk negatively about their own gender. They see each other as rivals, look down upon other women and treat them as little girls or only half human beings.
One typical example may be the selection of daughters-in-law. The future mothers-in-law are fishing for every kind of information about their possible daughters-in-law, just like agents do. Of special importance are economic aspects like the wealth of the girl’s parents. In case, the reality does not correspond to their ideals, they will search another bride for their sons. Mothers believe that they must find brides for their sons to make them happy and to bear them children, most of all, sons.
A woman may give up her personal freedom at the age of 18 or twenty and dive into the cold water or she may jump into the fire like Sita did in the classical epic. Important is that she can prove not to have been polluted by any kid of contacts to male beings. Hopefully, Sita’s fire will go out or the wood will remain wet and, so, cannot catch fire. It’s high time that Nepal’s men, too, prove that they are not polluted when they are going to marry a woman.
A woman’s talk will not be taken seriously as long as a woman’s words are only treated as half true. How can the attitude of society be changed if we women don’t take our own sisters for serious? Men will not mind if women talk negatively about each other.
At home, a woman is regarded as source of life. But she should ask: Who is she slaving away for? It has always been so and, thus, it must remain. Women are like seasonal workers: They are sent away in case they are not needed any more, and be it only because they don’t bare sons. Does not biology tell us that a child’s gender depends on the father’s sperm? Nothing will change, as long as the parents educate their children for a two class society: Everything is first and all for the sons, and later they, perhaps, give a little bit to their daughters, two. The reason for the women’s long but futile fight for equality seems to be that a man has something in his trousers, but a women doesn’t.
The women’s lacking emancipation and education is a serious social problem. This problem cannot be solved without providing them economic rights, i.e. equal rights to parents’ property. Without such rights men will continue to decide about women and donate them to other families, just like other properties.
A further necessary step will be to give women the right to chose their own partners for life. Parents claim to be worrying their daughter could be polluted or even have an illegitimate child. So, they are anxious to marry their daughter at a very early age to a husband, selected by them mainly along economic and/or cultural reasons. As a consequence, many girls are not sent to school, become pregnant at a very early age and have to give birth to ten or more children, in case they don’t die in confinement before.
Many men remarry within a few months after the death of their wives. They say this is necessary to take care of household, fields and children. The situation of a widowed woman is totally different. Where is the man interested in marrying such a woman, especially if she has children? No man in Nepal is really interested in this. As a consequence, women often remain unmarried after the death of their husband, not to talk about corresponding religious prejudices.
Handicapped women have no chance at all to find a husband. To make this situation even worse: If the handicap occurs after the wedding, the husband has the legal right to repudiate his wife and marry another woman. Woe betide the woman who would claim the same right for herself!
The children are educated to be very dependent on their parents. Many Nepali man regard their mother as their very special friend and most trusted contact person, but their own wife simply as workforce and breeding ground for their offspring. But is this negative attitude toward women the result of the education which women, i.e. mothers, provide to theirs sons within the family compound? Isn’t it a logical consequence that men educated in this way later in the social and government sphere show little or no understanding for the growing demands of the small circle of educated and emancipated women? If we women really want to move something, then we should strike at the root.

Source : Lhakpa Doma Salaka-Pinasa Sherpa
Hennef, Germany