Nepal - The country that didn't like women


The country that didn't like women

In the former himalayan kingdom of Nepal, women have become the primary victims of the poverty and violence that have followed the civil war. Suicide is today the leading cause of death among young Nepalese females.

April 2006 marked a watershed in Nepalese history. After ten years of civil war, maoist rebels defeated a monarchy that had ruled for two hundred years. With a peace agreement and a new coalition government, the country could hope once again for a better future.

Alas, seven years later, Nepal---especially its capital Kathmandu---is living through a nightmare. Successive governments have failed completely to establish a stable economy. Without natural resources or a modern manufacturing sector of its own, and confronted by a worldwide increase in the price of imported raw materials, Nepal barely survives on money provided by its diaspora and international help. Corruption is pervasive while the government does nothing. The entire country is in limbo while everyone waits for the long-awaited new elections. The story is the same for the framing of a new Constitution.

Living conditions continue to deteriorate, especially for the villagers. Having lost hope of ever seeing their fate improve, they have begun a huge exodus---not only to Kathmandu, but also to India and to the Gulf States. This exodus is accelerated by intermittent famine that strikes rural areas more and more often in an era of global warming. On the outskirts of Kathmandu, shantytowns have been built by thousands of poor families struggling to survive.

These disruptions have aggravated the already dismal plight of girls and women.

Domestic violence, aggravated in a setting of poverty and male unemployment, has increased tremendously. Prostitution is now a national issue. Left to fend for themselves in villages deserted by men, and confronted by increasing poverty, women have become « the prey of choice ». Long the objects of trafficking for Indian brothels, young Nepalese women by the thousands are now becoming available for local « consumption. » Non-governmental organizations fear that Nepal may become the next destination for sex tourism.

Other trends reinforce the sad picture. For example, a perverse use of modern technology for echography has been the selective abortion of female fœtuses. And perhaps one fact is the best summary : since 2010, suicide has become the leading cause of death among Nepalese women aged 15-49.

Confronted by so many urgent problems, the government and the civil society, local and foreign social workers, with the help of a handful of princesses from the former royal family, have started to fight back. Programs of all sorts have sprung up : literacy classes for mothers, medical care, shelters for beaten or trafficked women, emergency food distribution in famine-stricken areas, economic-integration credits for female villagers---the list is long but the success variable.

Recently, the government has acknowledged the serious situation by its experiments with special female police brigades. But the spiral of violence continues---by men against women and by women against themselves---and for now it is hard to see when and how it will end.



Nepal - The country that didn't like women

Batase, Sindhu Palchowk, Nepal. The district of Sindhu Palchowk is one of the poorest in Nepal. In this hilly area, the land is hard to work and not very fertile.
Batase, Sindhu Palchowk, Nepal. Manmaï is 36 years old, a mother of four. To make ends meet, even after a day in the fields, she must spend the evening at more poorly-paid,  back-breaking labor.
Golce, Sindhu Palchowk, Nepal. From early childhood, girls are put to work.  Before or after school (if they are lucky enough even to go to school),  they must take on the same tasks as their mothers.
Golce, Sindhu Palchowk, Nepal. The district lacks basic infrastructure and access to basic health services is difficult.To get to a clinic may mean hours of travel on foot. Some women have never seen a doctor until they give birth for the first time.
Golce, Sindhu Palchowk, Nepal. Alcohol and gambling are a real scourge. Whether in the villages or in town, many men spend their whole day drinking and playing cards. In a few hours they can lose everything. Then they come home to beat their wives.
Hatark, Dadeldhura, Nepal. Nanda is getting married today.  Like the vast majority of Nepalese women, she didn’t choose her husband. It’s an arranged marriage.
Hatark, Dadeldhura, Nepal. It’s hard to know her age : 17, say some villagers, others say 23. Marriage is officially forbidden before 18, but in the countryside most women marry younger. (Nepal even still practices child marriages).
Dadeldhura, Nepal. Nepali women are second hand citizens. Still today, only the father or husband can grant them with citizenship. Without citizenship, women have no legal existence. They can’t get access to the public health system and can’t study.
Dhant, Dadeldhura, Nepal. In the western and central districts of Nepal, the tradition of Chhaupadi survives. During their period and just after delivering a child, women are forbidden to live in their own home or to cook and eat with their family.
Dhant, Dadeldhura, Nepal. Considered as impure, they would otherwise bring down on the community the wrath of the gods. So like Dhauli, they pass their days in the stable or the sheepfold.
Kathmandu, Nepal. Started during the civil war, a huge exodus from the villages to Kathmandu, has raised the population of the capital from 1,5 million people to almost 4 millions, in less than ten years.
Balku slum, Kathmandu, Nepal. Looking for job opportunities and a better life in the capital city of Kathmandu, women are leaving  their villages by the thousands. Usually illiterate and untrained, they can get only the hardest, lowest-paying jobs.
Manohara slum, Kathmandu Nepal. In Manohara, the biggest of Kathmandu’s 63 shantytowns, migrant women struggle to make a living. Some grow vegetables to sell in the city markets ; others are exploited in the sweatshops of the slum.
Manohara slum, Kathmandu Nepal.Their husbands went to the Gulf States to find work as well. It will be at least three years (the average length of a contract there) before they see each other.
Manohara slum, Kathmandu Nepal.
Manohara slum, Kathmandu, Nepal. Unemployment, poverty, promiscuity…. these  are the daily fare of the slum-dwellers. The local raksi, illegaly brewed, is used to drown their desperation.
Manohara slum, Kathmandu, Nepal. Women are the first victims of the violence in the slums. Som Maya, 13 years old, was raped for months by a neighbour while her mother was working in Kuwait.
Kathmandu, Nepal.Young nepali women leave their remote villages for Kathmandu, dreaming of a better life. But they end up, most of the time, in forced prostitution.
Kathmandu, Nepal.The number of « massage parlours », « dance bars » and « cabin restaurants » has tremendously increased in Kathmandu the last ten years.
Kathmandu, Nepal.
Kathmandu, Nepal. Sharmila, Sandhya or Premika…their stories are all the same. They left their villages at 14, 15 or 16 years old for the youngest. They were running away from poverty and hunger, a violent and alcoholic father or husband.
Kalimati, Kathmandu, Nepal.The Nepali government has created special units of female police in 23 out of its 75 districts. They help victims of violence to file a case. But these units get little support from the police hierarchy.
Kalimati, Kathmandu, Nepal. Nara Maya, 21, met the fiancé her family had chosen for her only 2 weeks before getting married. It was 3 months ago. Since then, she’s been beaten up every day. Nara Maya has decided to get divorced.
Parashpur, Nepalganj, Nepal. Hasrun, 25 years old. 5 years ago, her husband and mother-in-law tried to kill her. He was sentenced to 7 years of jail. Now, after 4 years only, he is free and she is living again with him. No other choice.
Kathmandu, Nepal. In Nepal, when a woman is sentenced to jail, she goes there with her children. Based in Kathmandu, an NGO takes care of them now. With the permission of the mothers, the children leave the jail to stay in shelters.
Birganj, Nepal. In the women’s jail of Birganj, at the Indian border, most of the detainees are there for human or drug trafficking. Illiterate and poor, they make easy targets for the traffickers who use them for their traffics.
Birganj, Népal. Sabina Lama, 18, listens to romantic songs on her small radio. She has tears in her eyes. She was sentenced 11 years of jail for drug trafficking. She is been in this overpopulated women’s jail of Birganj for one year only.
Kathmandu valley, Nepal. They are only a few shelters in Nepal for women victims of violence. Only a dozen, for the whole country and only in big cities.
Kathmandu valley, Nepal.There, women receive medical treatment, psychological support and some basic training, like sewing, cooking or litteracy classes… But it’s too little to face the huge needs of the country, the NGO lack of money.
Kathmandu, Nepal. Renuka, 19 years old, wanted to die. After another violent argument with her husband, who had threatened to kill her, after months of fights, insults and beating, she tried to self immolate with kerosen.
Sindhu Palchowk, Nepal. Doctors of the World has developped in Sindhu Palchowk specific programs for reproductive health issues : they build or renovate dispensaries, create delivery rooms, they train health volunteers and midwives …
Batase, Sindhu Palchowk, Nepal. Puspa, 27, is a midwife. She left her husband and her 3 years old boy behind, in Kathmandu, for a well paid three years contract in Batase. She is in charge of deliveries in a health post.
Golce, Sindhu Palchowk, Nepal.To help women to reach a kind of independance in the family and therefore, to fight against domestic violence, different NGO offer them micro-credits.
Baramse, Sindhu Palchowk, Nepal. According to official datas, the level of litteracy is the same in Nepal for boys and girls. But reality tells a different story.
Banke, Nepal. While the men are abroad, triying to make money for the family, women get organized to face daily life problems. They gather into unions. That day, in Galrabaj, hit by the monsoon, the « Sapana » group (« Dream ») starts planting the rice.