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Nepali Women Imprisoned by Patriarchy
[Opinion] It's time for society to end gender stereotyping
Krishna Ghimire (krishna001)     Print Article 
Published 2006-12-15 13:56 (KST)   
Although the Nepali government has formally announced that men and women have equal rights, it remains something to be implemented. Nepali women still face the same problems women in developed countries managed largely to rid themselves of a hundred years ago -- male domination.

Women's consciousness is tightly bound by the religious injunction that they "should be dominated by their father before marriage, by their husband after marriage and by their son after their husband's death."

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Internationally, women's movements have radically revolutionized these issues, but in Nepal, the only effects so far of these movements have been changes in the statutes, not in practice.

Male wrong-headedness and society at large physically abuses and guilt-trips women irrationally -- if a women does not give birth to a son it can be a matter for divorce, or, in a second marriage, of the husband blaming her for committing an unpardonable sin in a previous life.

If the husband abuses alcohol, society will blame his wife for not sufficiently fulfilling his desires. The husband has total freedom to remarry after the death of his wife, but if the wife tries to do the same, society will take her to task with vulgar abuse that verges on goading her to suicide.

Women are discounted from childhood by their parents and are generally not sent to school. If they are sent it won't be to the same school their brothers attend.

Families use them as domestic servants to gather fodder for livestock and prepare meals. They aren't free to choose a partner with whom to spend a lifetime. A procedure called amniocentesis is being misused to determine the gender of a fetus in order to abort it if female -- is this legal?

The custom of providing a dowry has also militated against the status of women because, for the marriage of a daughter, her parents must provide sufficient financial support to the bridegroom for him to avoid the stigma of marrying "below" him.

In many societies the dowry amount should equal what the son's parents have invested in him to make his way in the world. If the bride's parents are not able to pay the amount demanded by the groom according to his timetable the marriage may not take place or, in the worst case, may drive their daughter to suicide or leave her with emotional scars.

There have been many news stories of a bridgegroom's parents killing their daughter-in-law by pouring kerosene on her body because a little amount of money has been delayed coming from her parents. A girl's parents therefore avoid educating her, thinking that money so spent would be in vain because they must cover her dowry requirements.

Nature doesn't help matters by restricting pregnancy and birthing to females, so that men don't experience the pain of labor during parturition. Men are also spared menstruation and its attendant weakening, yet the average life expectancy of women exceeds that of men. Political leaders support the equality of male and female in their rhetoric, but in practice they themselves also dominate their wives, prohibiting them from freely choosing their own friends and work. Higher education by itself is no indicator of personality, so that leaders can be socially conservative, discriminating by gender in all sectors of life.

To mitigate the effects of discrimination, we should provide opportunities for females in every sector of life and change our expectations, for example, that only sons can look after their aging parents. But a daughter could also do this, given similar opportunities.

For women to enjoy independence, we should provide skills training and education. The government must set aside places for women in sectors like technical training, work, job vacancies and a reasonable number of seats in parliament. We must radically update our attitude that it is necessary for women to go to live in the husband's house after marriage and not support themselves independently in a career. Though they may be physically the weaker sex, they are mentally very tough and can perform tasks of any level of difficulty. What can't they do:

Climb Mt. Everest?
Reach the moon and outer space?
Read, write, climb, drive, run and swim?
Be doctors, engineers and pilots?

The differences between men and women exist only in our minds and not empirically in regard to work competence, intelligence, intellectuality and skill.

They are not inferior to men in any way, but traditional religious practice, formed over time by and for men in control of religion, discounts women's rights.

If a woman gives birth to a daughter the family blames her sinful thinking. But we know that gender is determined by a Y (male) chromosome attaching itself to a zygote having only X (female) chromosomes. If it is appropriate to blame and punish, then the husband should be scolded.

My theme is not to scold, just to say that it is not a "mistake" on the part of a husband or a wife if a daughter or a son is born. In a natural ecosystem, the number of males and females is in balance, and we can't alter this natural phenomenon by our desires. We should not flout this law by aborting a female fetus before birth or somehow conceiving only a male fetus because it throws nature off-balance, which can become amplified and result in unmanageable consequences.

Now that the world has entered the 21st century, the scientific and technical revolution has had a revolutionary effect, but we are still bound up with traditional thought. I don't think it's time to discriminate between men and women, but it is time to make our nation prosperous and our lives peaceful and happy.

We must change our thinking about male and female to create a new world as an oasis of freedom and justice. It is also mandatory to change our lifestyles in offices, homes and other social settings to break down the artificial walls between male and female.

It is not a curse to become a woman or a man, but it is our great fortune to be human. Is it then reasonable to fritter away this life in squabbling about non-existent gender differences?

Let's change our concepts and practices to provide equal rights for females.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Krishna Ghimire

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