Single Women: An Alienated Social Group in Nepal
Women are considered to be a significant contributor in building a culture of peace and nurturing cultural practices. However, being a patriarchal society, it is no surprise to see single women living a dejected life ignoring every reason to be happy as if they have committed a sin. In Nepal, single women are also known as marginalized group (Regmi 2001), who are forced and sometimes prefer to live alone without men. Although single women are the bread winner and active decision maker (Women Human Right Defenders [WHRD] 2005-2006), they are alienated from the community because they deny to follow the social norms. Widows, badi, divorced, and unmarried women are categorized under single women. Moreover, widows and badi situations are more exacerbated than divorced and unmarried women.
Issues of Single Women in Nepal
In Nepal, widows contain 99% of single women who are shunned by the society (Burathoki 2009). After the death of their husbands, their freedom is taken away by the society. Women for Human Rights reported that 67% of widows resulted from 10 years long armed conflict. Additionally, widows are merely between 20-35 years of age with 3-4 children (Luitel 2009). The status of widows in the country is very depressing because they are shunned by our society. Widows are not allowed to wear colorful dresses, participate in special occasions such as wedding ceremony and religious festival. Moreover, there is a believe that if people see widows while walking on the street for any new work, they will immediately post pond their job because looking widows face before their new work is considered to be a bad luck. Especially young widows are assumed to be witches and are blamed for the death of their husbands.
On the other hand, widows are the ones who are blamed for their own condition. Although their husbands have been killed in the war or an accident, most of them think that their husband died because of their misfortune. They are most likely to become the victim of human trafficking because they have lack of education and skills to work and survive (Thapa 2007). On July 15, 2009, Nepal’s government introduced a new incentive to give Rs. 50,000 cash as a reward for marrying a widow (Joanna 2009). The government has brought the program from the suggestion of economists for social security, but offering cash to marry widows only emphasize the fact that, women cannot be empowered until and unless they have husbands (Basnet 2009).
Badi are the women who came to Nepal from northern India to entertain people by dancing, singing and making madals, a musical instrument, in 1890s. However, later in 1950s, they lost their customers so sex work became their main income (Gurung 2002). After having frequent unprotected sex, the women are giving birth to children whose fathers are unknown. Those children have to face poor nurturing and social insecurities after their birth because of their unidentified fathers. Similarly, citizen certificate is impossible for those children, although Nepal citizenship act (2006) defines “Any person born at the time when his father or mother is a citizen of Nepal, shall be a citizen of Nepal by descent" (Nepal citizenship act  2006). However, it has been practiced only in the name of father. Additionally, marriages with badi are against the social norms in the country because people think that all badi are involved in sex work although there are some young badi who are not involved in sex work (Cox 1992). Ultimately, widows and badi who are involved in sex work to survive have a high risk of HIV and AIDS as well as many other diseases that are found in the country. Thus, the government should bring new incentives to empower them through education, vocational courses and employment oriented training so that they could earn a livelihood with a healthy life.
Divorced and Unmarried Women
In Nepal, there are many women who are aware of their rights but are not satisfied with their marriage for various reasons and get divorced. However, about 465 Muslim women are forcefully thrown out of the house by their husbands without any support (Parajuli 2008). Likewise, unmarried women who are above 35 years age are also known as single women. There are some feminists, who prefer to stay alone and call themselves as ‘single women’ to remove the discrimination against single women (Women for Human Rights 2003). However, both of them are being gossiped and criticized by society for refusing the social norms. Thus divorced and unmarried women are less exploited than others.
There is a famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi that says “If the women of Asia wake up, they will dazzle the world” (V Mohini n.d.). Thus, the government of Nepal should not delay to recognize the rights of single women, and the women should be considered to be the assets of the country.
Basnet, Sunita. (2009, July 28). Marriage or sales advertisement. Retrieved November 28, 2009, from World Pulse website http://worldpulse.com/node/11972
Burathoki G, Kanchan. (2009, August 10). Marriage incentive riles single women. Retrieved December 8, 2009, from Republica Social Affairs website http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=...
Cox, Thomas. (1992, January). The badi-prostitution as a social norm among an untouchable caste of west Nepal. Retrieved December 6, 2009, from Scribd website http://www.scribd.com/doc/21993401/Cox-Thomas-The-Badi-Prostitution-as-a...
Giri, V Mohini. (2000). Transforming approached to conflict resolution. Retrieved November 25, 2009, from CAPWIP: Center for Asia-pacific Women in Politics website www.capwip.org/resources/womparlconf2000/downloads/giri1.doc
Gurung, Trishna. (2002, July 05-11). Badi women must now contend with vigilante. Retrieved December 1, 2009, from Nepali Times website http://www.nepalitimes.com.np/issue/101/Nation/5319
Jolly, Joanna. (2009, July 16). Nepal widows dismiss marriage incentive. Retrieved November 25, 2009, from BBC NEWS website http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8153193.stm
Luitel, Anjana. (2009, June 24). International widow day. Retrieved on November 30, 2009, from World Pulse website http://www.worldpulse.com/node/11076
Nepal citizen act 2063 (2006). (2006, November 26). An act enacted for amendment and integration of matters relating to Nepal citizenship act. Retrieved December 6, 2009, from British Citizen website: http://www.britishcitizen.info/NCA2006.pdf
Parajuli, Kalpit. (2008, December 1). Nepal: Muslim women in the street against ‘talak’ divorce. Retrieved December 7, 2009, from Women living under Muslim laws website http://www.wluml.org/node/4911
Regmi, Chandra Shibesh. (2001, March). A marginalised group: listening to badi community. Retrieved December 6, 2009, from ActionAid Nepal: western regional office, Nepalgunj website http://www.actionaid.org/docs/a%20marginalised%20group.badit.pdf
Thapa, Lily. (2007, December 8). Nepal’s widow : 16 days against gender violence. Retrieved November 24, 2009 from Opendemocracy 50.50 inclusive democracy website http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/nepals_widows
Women for Human Rights (WHR). (2003, June 9-11). Single women empowerment workshop in Dang. Retrieved December 8, 2009, from Friedrich Ebert Stiftung website http://www.fesnepal.org/reports/2003/seminar_reports/whr_singlewomen_rep...
Women Human Right Defenders (WHRDs). (2005-2006). Urgent: badi women human rights defenders attacked and detaine. Retrieved December 6, 2009, from Women’s rehabilitation center (WOREC) website http://www.defendingwomendefendingrights.org/badi_attacked.php