Women in Nepal

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Women in Nepal
Woman in Nepal, 2007
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.485 (2012)
Rank 102nd
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 170 (2010)
Women in parliament 33.2% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 17.9% (2010)
Women in labour force 80.4% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.6053 (2013)
Rank 121st out of 144

The status of women in Nepal has varied throughout history. In the early 1990s, like in any other Asian country, women in Nepal were generally subordinate to men in virtually every aspect of life. Nepal, like most societies in the present world, was a rigidly patriarchal society. It still is in many ways. Women's relative status, however, varies from one community to another.


Nepali woman 1900s in traditional dress

Nepal being a predominantly agricultural society, the senior female member played a commanding role within the family by controlling resources, making crucial planting and harvesting decisions, and determining the expenses and budget allocations. Yet women's lives remained centered on their traditional roles —taking care of most household chores, fetching water and animal fodder, and doing farm work. Their standing in society was mostly contingent on their husbands' and parents' social and economic positions. They had limited access to markets, productive services, education, health care, and local government. Malnutrition and poverty hit women hardest. Women usually worked harder and longer than men. By contrast, women from high-class families had maids to take care of most household chores and other menial work and thus worked far less than men or women in lower socioeconomic groups. But economic prosperity aside, decision making was left to the men in the family.

The economic contribution of women was substantial, but largely unnoticed because their traditional role was taken for granted. When employed, their wages normally were 25 percent less than those paid to men. In most rural areas, their employment outside the household generally was limited to planting, weeding, and harvesting. In urban areas, those migrating from rural areas or with a lower economic status were employed in domestic and traditional jobs, as well as in the government sector, mostly in low-level positions.

One tangible measure of women's status was their educational attainment. Although the constitution offers women equal educational opportunities, many social, economic, and cultural factors contributed to lower enrollment and higher dropout rates for girls. Illiteracy imposed the greatest hindrance to enhancing equal opportunity and status for women. They were caught in a vicious circle imposed by the patriarchical society. Their lower status hindered their education, and the lack of education, in turn, constricted their status and position. Although the female literacy rate has improved noticeably over the years, the level in the early 1990s fell far short of the male level.

The level of educational attainment among female children of wealthy and educated families was much higher than that among female children of poor families. This class disparity in educational attainment was also true for boys. In Nepal, as in many societies, education was heavily class-biased.

In the early 1990s, a direct correlation existed between the level of education and status. Educated women had access to relatively high-status positions in the government and private service sectors, and they had a much higher status than uneducated women. This general rule was more applicable at the societal level than at the household level. Within the family, an educated woman did not necessarily hold a higher status than her uneducated counterpart. Also within the family, a woman's status, especially a daughter-in-law's status, was more closely tied to her husband's authority and to her parental family's wealth and status than anything else.


The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal of 1990 contained a guarantee that no person should be discriminated against on the basis of sex, and in 1991 the government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

An amendment of 1975 to the civil code introduced the first clear provision on property rights for women. It ruled that a woman who remained unmarried up to 35 years of age had a right to inherit property. In 2002, a bill was passed in 2002 that granted women the right to inherit property from birth, specifying however that at the time of marriage any property must be returned to the parent's family, with the wife obtaining equal right to her husband's property instead. The 2002 bill included also other provisions on women's rights, in particular granting a woman the right to divorce under certain conditions, a legalization of abortion, and increased punishments for rapists.[2] The Interim Constitution 2063 of Nepal has some provisions to uplift status of women, the constitution says that a daughter can get equal parental property as son if she asks, even a women can divorce with husband and get 50% of property of husband after divorce, a child can acquire citizenship in the name of his/her mother too, in every governmental office 20% quota for female must be preserved and 33% of seats are preserved in parliament for women. These all efforts are done so that women can be in mainstream politics of country and else be socially and economically strong.

The efforts made in the past few years by the government and women have given women a stronger approach to many aspects. now women are engaged in politics, business and in other fields . recent surveys done by Nepal government has revealead a steady and large improvement in the field of women rights in Nepal.


In Nepal, the custom of dowry is still common, and dowry-related violence remains a problem, even though the dowry system has been banned in Nepal.[3] Despite the laws, incidents of domestic violence related to dowry continue, under a general perception of impunity.[4] The practice of dowry is closely related to social prestige; and dowry violence is especially prevalent in the Terai belt. In 2009, Nepal enacted the Social Customs and Practices Act outlawing dowry; however, there have been no known cases of enforcement.[5]

In some communities, like the Newar Newar people, the dowry system was meant as a gift that would assist the bride, in case she faced problems in the future. The dowry would be her wealth, that she was free to sell or use if she needed to start a nuclear family. So, the utensils and the money she received as dowry was to be kept separately under her own care until the time of need arrived. But with the growing influence of the other communities, under the caste system which is akin to the one followed in India Caste system in India, the system has started changing. And over the times, it has become a system that actually puts more pressure on the family of the bride to fulfill the expectations of the family of the groom. This in turn weakens the status of the woman in the family, instead of the original idea of strengthening it by providing her material support.

Child marriage[edit]

Child marriage is common in Nepal.[6][7] The practice of marrying young girls is often driven by poverty, but its prevalence varies across the country, depending on level of education, wealth, geographic location, religion, and ethnicity.[8] These marriages lead to pregnancy and birth at young ages, which often result in health problems, such as uterine prolapse.[9]

Aside from the issues that arise from the marriage itself, child widows are prevalent as well. These widows are seen as witches and bad luck. They are forced to repent for their sins and wear white for the rest of their lives. Remarrying, general pleasure in life, specific foods, family events, looking men in the eye, and even leaving home are off limits to widows. This is specifically seen as an issue for child widows because they essentially give up their lives. Although, child marriage is a part of Hindu culture, and many people see no issue with the practice. Many of the child widows in Nepal suffer abuse and trauma during and after their marriages. The age differences between bride and groom are usually large.[10]

Over 700 million women and girls in the world were married before the age of 18. The disparity between men and women is evident, with only 156 boys married between ages 15–18 compared with 720 million girls. Nepal makes the list of the top 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage.[11]

Domestic violence[edit]

Nepalese cultural, social, and religious patterns repeatedly enforce the low social status of women, often leading to a destructive lifestyle between genders. This violent culture is most prevalent in the marital aspect of their society. Instead of being treated as equal members in the human race, Nepalese women are shamed as less than a mere slave to their husbands. They must never refuse their partner’s requests, and in the case that they do disagree, the women are “punished”, until this behavior is corrected. This aspect of Nepalese culture generally acts as a stimulant for domestic exploitation.[12] However, according to Nepalese law, a women has experienced domestic abuse if, and only if, she has suffered from forced sexual intercourse. Unfortunately, more times than not neither the women assaulted, nor the man doing the abusing will report the crime. And to make matters worse, even when it is reported, any form of consequential punishment is seldom executed.[13]

In 2009, a study was conducted to determine the association between selected risk factors and domestic violence of married women in Nepal, aged 15–24. Scientists were determined to solve this cycle of corruption before it spiraled out of control. The study concluded that approximately 51.9% of these women reported having experienced some form of violence in their lifetime, whether it be emotional, physical, or otherwise. In fact, 25.3% specified they had experienced physical violence, and a whopping 46.2% admitted they had been a victim to some form of sexual assault.[12] These numbers not only shocked the research team, but started a chain reaction in the investigation of domestic violence in Nepal. According to a study by BMC Women’s Health, logistic regression analysis found that the literacy status of Nepalese women, healthcare, age difference, and alcohol consumption had significant association with women’s experience of sexual coercion in their marriage.[14] The ProQuest Biological Science Collection also released a study, reporting that 21% of Nepalese men believe they are completely justified in physically abusing their spouse. In addition it showed that about 5% of these men find justification in using force to have sexual intercourse, and 3% that say they may rightfully commit adultery if their spouse is unwilling to have sexual intercourse at that specific time.[15] Therefore, in order to solve the overwhelming issue of domestic violence in the country of Nepal, one must first address the husband's beliefs and cultural rituals. Men in Nepal desperately believe that it is morally right, and in some cases their civic duty, to discipline their wives in a physical manor. For the sake of the betterment of these women, the overall male belief system must be altered.[15]

Scientists studying the social aspects of Nepal believe that the domestic violence prevalent in Nepal can be traced back to 1996. In this year the Nepalese people endured the People’s War, and its effects were felt for years to come. Depression, anxiety, and general distrust swept the country. Prior to the war, little violence had been recorded in Nepal.[16] This prevailing rampage may also be due to the fact that compared to the unmarried youth of Nepal, a much higher proportion of married youth reported violence at home. Marriage is the underlying issue. The standards and expectations of marriage, as the people of Nepal understand it, are all wrong. A Nepalese marriage can be more easily related to a master and slave relationship, than a to husband and wife. Marriage should be based on foundations of love and trust, but through corrupt systems such as dowry, this once holy alliance is now insignificant in Nepal. 

Although a law was passed in 2009 called the Domestic Violence and Punishment Act 2066, it is rarely enforced or acknowledged.[12] This law against sexual assault is so rarely executed that hardly any Nepalese women even know that it exists. Depending on the act committed, this law could send offenders to prison for up to six months.[13] The outcome of these women's’ lives could be drastically positively influenced if they had a safe place to go and report the crimes committed against them. However, care needs to be shown not only after the act, but as a way to prevent the assault in the future. Equal attention needs to be given in encouraging inter-spousal communication from the start of the marriage, rather than condemning wrongful behavior later on.

Economic empowerment goes a long way in women's change of status in the society. Ironically, even as this has been evidenced by several examples, women who are educated and economically independent have also been subject to domestic violence. The cycle of abuse is perpetuated because the social construct forbids women from speaking out due to the fear of shame or stigma. According to the census of 2011, male literacy rate 71.1% whereas female literacy rate in Nepal is 46.7%. The approach of government program , Non-government project on empowerment has provided some improvement in the scenario compared to the situation few years back. The situation of women education and employment in urban area is somewhat progressing but the condition is rural areas is still the same. As most of women in Nepal are working as the unpaid labor force in the family and more than 76% women are involved in agriculture, there’s no recognition of their contribution to the economic advantages that the family gets in return. In Nepal only 19% of the women have the ownership of the fixed assets whereas 25% of women are as female head households. The government and the legal system in Nepal also reflect the patriarchal attitudes. Legally a daughter can’t claim the property of the father and women is entitled to the husband’s property. The data and the legal provisions also reflects that women don’t have equal access to economic resources which restrict them to make decisions on the property and economy and leaving them behind in the society.

The country strategy 2013-2017 identifies women’s inequality as the hindrance for development and thus this strategy addresses in the empowerment of women in social, political and govt system. With the first women President, First Women Speaker of the House and First women chief justice, there’s some hope that people will see positive changes in terms of empowering women via education and economic access.[17]


Chhaupadi is a social practice that occurs in the western part of Nepal for Hindu women, which prohibits a woman from participating in normal family and social activities during menstruation. Women are considered impure during this time, and are kept out of the house and have to live in a shed. Although chhaupadi was outlawed by the Supreme Court of Nepal in 2005, the tradition is slow to change.[18][19] After a woman died in a Chauppadi shelter recently, the government has decided to impose strict laws against the tradition[20]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^ Women's Property Right Movement and Achievement of the 11th Amendment of Civil Code, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Nepal Office
  3. ^ http://southasia.oneworld.net/todaysheadlines/nepal-bans-dowry-caste-based-discrimination
  4. ^ http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20110617-284657.html
  5. ^ http://www.genevadeclaration.org/fileadmin/docs/Co-publications/Femicide_A%20Gobal%20Issue%20that%20demands%20Action.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage-in-nepal-what-about-girls/
  7. ^ http://unicef.org.np/media-centre/press-releases/2014/08/11/nepal-commits-to-end-child-marriage
  8. ^ http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Child_Marriage.pdf
  9. ^ http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Children/Study/RightHealth/HerTurn.pdf
  10. ^ 2, Oct; Forde, 2015 8:00 Am Kaelyn. "These Children Are Widows". Refinery29. Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  11. ^ "Ending Child Marriage: Progress and prospects" (PDF). www.unicef.org. UNICEF. 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Tamang, Jyotsna, Puri Mahesh, Lamichhane Prabhat, and Dulal Bishnu. "Women's Status and Violence against Young Married Women in Rural Nepal." BMC Women's Health 11.1 (2011): 19. Web.
  13. ^ a b Mahesh, Puri, Frost Melanie, Jyotsna Tamang, Lamichhane Prabhat, and Shah Iqbal. "The Prevalence and Determinants of Sexual Violence against Young Married Women by Husbands in Rural Nepal." BMC Research Notes 5.1 (2012): 291. Web.
  14. ^ Adhikari, Ramesh, and Jyotsna Tamang. "Sexual Coercion of Married Women in Nepal." BMC Women's Health 10 (2010): 31. Web.
  15. ^ a b Poudel-Tandukar, Kalpana, Krishna C Poudel, Junko Yasuoka, Takashi Eto, and Masamine Jimba. "Domestic Violence against Women in Nepal." Lancet 371.9625 (2008): 1664. Web.
  16. ^ Kohrt, Brandon A, Daniel J Hruschka, Carol M Worthman, Richard D Kunz, Jennifer L Baldwin, Nawaraj Upadhaya, Nanda Raj Acharya, Suraj Koirala, Suraj B Thapa, Wietse A Tol, Mark J D Jordans, Navit Robkin, Vidya Dev Sharma, and Mahendra K Nepal. "Political Violence and Mental Health in Nepal: Prospective Study." The British Journal of Psychiatry : The Journal of Mental Science 201.4 (2012): 268-75. Web.
  17. ^ http://interactions.eldis.org/economic-empowerment/country-profiles/nepal
  18. ^ http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?page=publisher&publisher=IRIN&type=&coi=NPL&docid=4e3f7ae82&skip=0
  19. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4250506.stm
  20. ^ "PM concerned over death of woman in Chaupadi". The Kathmandu Post, Access Date 12 December 2016

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/. (Data from 1991.)

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