As Women Become Aware Of Right, Divorce Rate Doubles In Nepal’s Capital
The number of divorces doubled in Nepal’s capital from 2005 to 2011, according to the Kathmandu District Court. Legal professionals say one reason is increased awareness among women about their rights. Legally, it is easier for women to file for divorce than men. But socially, women still face stigma for divorcing their husbands.
by Kalpana Bhusal Senior Reporter
Friday - May 4, 2012
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – “What had my little son and myself done that my husband brought home a second wife?” asks a frail-looking Janaki Adhikari.
Her eyes well up with tears.
“Yes, I then divorced him and raised my son on my own,” she says. “He is now 15 years old.”
Adhikari, 36, moved out of her ex-husband’s home in 1997 after he brought home a second wife. But she divorced her husband just four years ago because she had been hoping he would have a change of heart and ask her to come home.
Women’s rights advocates say that a rise in awareness of their rights has also helped women to combat the social stigma against women for filing divorce.
Currently living in Kathmandu, the capital, with her son, Adhikari hails from Tanahu district in Nepal’s Western region. Her husband’s home is there, located a half hour from her parents’ home.
Adhikari says that she fell in love with her ex-husband, Hari Thapa, in the seventh grade. They walked to and from school together every day.
“If I hadn’t fallen in love then, maybe my life wouldn’t have been this difficult today. I would have been happy. What to do? I wasn’t wise enough.”
In the 10th grade, Thapa asked her to elope. The eldest in his family, he felt pressured to get married because his mother was frequently falling sick and the family needed someone to do the household chores.
He couldn’t go to Adhikari’s parents to ask to officially marry her. She belonged to the Brahmin caste, the highest in the caste system, and Thapa belonged to the Chettri caste, a second-class caste in the hierarchy of the four-class tier. Also, she was only 16, two years below the legal marrying age.
Though reluctant at first, Adhikari agreed and eloped with Thapa in the tourist town of Pokhara. Thapa had threatened Adhikari that he would tattoo her name on his wrist and commit suicide if she didn’t marry him.
“I was 16 years old when I eloped with him in March of 1992 because I wasn’t wise enough,” she says. “And today, I’m alone and have to look after my son by myself.”
Adhikari’s family didn’t accept the relationship, even after the marriage. She discontinued her education and settled at her husband’s family’s house according to tradition, helping them with the household chores and also agriculture.
But she says that soon her in-laws began to torment her mentally for eloping and thus not paying a dowry, money and gifts that the bride’s family must give the groom’s family on the occasion of a wedding. But Thapa consoled her and tried to make her happy.
She says this changed five years later, though, in 1997 after the couple had their son. Thapa started to spend nights outside the house, and when Adhikari inquired why, he shouted at her and sometimes even physically abused her.
When her son was nine months old, her husband brought home a woman and asked his mother to invite her into the house, a tradition performed after marriage in which the mother-in-law officially invites the bride into the house.
“I was scared,” Adhikari says.