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Widows in Nepal

I want to start this post by saying; whatever I am going to write in this post is solely my opinion and understanding and hold no disrespect for any culture or tradition. 

In Nepal, if a Hindu woman loses her husband, she has to wear a white sari for a whole year. She also has to give up all signs of marriage like pote, glass chura and sindoor. 

After one year, she is allowed to wear clothes with colours other than red or shades of red or other bright colours and she still can’t wear pote, glass chura and sindoor. They are also forbidden from remarrying. It is believed if a widow marries another man; her deceased husband’s soul goes to hell. I know it sounds ridiculous but that is what the widows are led to believe. 

In ancient times, there used to be ‘Sati’ practice in which if a married man died, the widow is coerced to join her husband in his funeral pyre. My grandma used to tell me the stories about how she knew people who she lost due to this practice. This was outlawed only around 70 years ago. 

I don’t know why the husband is never made to undergo such cruel customs on the death of his wife. And men can remarry if they want. 

My paternal grandmother was widowed when she was quite young. Her youngest child was only 2 years old at that time. I know she suffered a lot as a widow in a conservative Nepali society. She was not invited for many religious ceremonies and considered an outcast for lots of Pujas. My grandma is a survivor and she managed to ignore all the brutal treatment from the society and brought up all 7 kids all by herself. She made sure that all the kids went to school and were well-educated despite the fact that she was uneducated and alone. All the kids grew up to be successful in their lives and all the credit goes to my grandma. 

I never saw my grandma wearing any bright colour saris even after 50 years of the death of my grandfather nor did she wear any glass chura. She used to have a few golden bangles and that was it. She told me lot of stories where she felt like an outcast from the society after her husband passed away. 

I know an aunt who lost a husband in a freak accident after just 3 years of marriage. At that time she had a year old baby boy and she was only 26 years old. I really thought it was cruel that she couldn’t enjoy her life just because her husband had passed away. Her MIL blamed her for her son’s death and made her life into hell. I am sure she missed her husband terribly and on top of that she had to deal with the cold behaviour from relatives and the society. I strongly believed that she should have been allowed to remarry and live the rest of her life happily but I was just a kid and my opinion would have brought an outburst among my relatives. 

Recently, I read news that the Nepali government are giving RS 50,000 (AUD 600) to the couple if a man married a widow. I find this wrong in so many levels. A widow is a woman and not some broken furniture which you pay the removalist to discard. No one should be given monetary incentive to marry; it should be purely out of love. I also read lots of news later that people were marrying only for the money and it was not helping the problem of widows in Nepal. 

I know there are so many human rights organisations that are fighting for this cause and I salute them but this problem is not going anywhere until we are able to educate people and make them understand that death is a natural process so no woman should suffer her whole life just because her husband died. 

I know things are changing slowly but still the majority of Nepalese people do not accept widows as a normal woman. I want them to think what they will do if the window is their own daughter or sister. I am sure they want them to be treated as equal to any normal woman and allowed to remarry if they wish to and live their life happily.