I have been married for 9 years and have one son who is 8 years old. My husband’s family are farmers. There are 4 sons in the family and all are married. We all lived together in his parents’ small home (Ed: Maximum of 4 rooms).
Right from the beginning of our marriage, even though it was a marriage arranged by my husband’s parents, I was aware that they did not like me and thought I was too much of a backward village girl for their son. They wanted someone who was more modern and not so quiet as me. As time went on my husband began to agree with his parents that I was not good enough for him and he began to treat me very poorly. I knew that he didn’t love me.
As our financial situation deteriorated my husband and his family planned for him to go and work in the Arab countries which is very common for poor Nepali families. Many Nepali women live for years without their husbands who are working “outside”. Without consulting me, he left for an Arab country when we had been married for two years and my son was one year old. He rang occasionally but never sent money to me and I had to ask my parents-in-law whenever I needed money for my son or me.
My sisters-in-law began to treat me as the domestic slave, giving me all the household chores and criticizing the way I did them. I could never make them happy although I continued to try for the sake of my son. They would shout at me and treat me very badly but did not let me tell my husband, eventually not even allowing me to speak with him on the phone.
I would cry and cry whenever I was on my own and wonder if this was karma, or what I had earned from my past life. Nepali people have the tradition that when a daughter is married, she leaves her parents’ home, never to return. At our wedding, the bride’s parent say, “Mare pap, pale punnya” meaning “Kill her and it is a sin, treat her well and you will be blessed.” You realize that your daughter is entirely at the mercy of her husband’s family.
I wondered if I was going mad. Even though his family tried to convince my husband I was a bad wife and not good enough for him, I always hoped that one day when my husband came back, he would understand me and love me.
When he came back I was so happy, but immediately began to cry when I realized he had bought his new wife home with him as a surprise. In fact, I fainted. (Ed: Bigamy has been illegal in Nepal since 1965 but is still openly practiced.) I realized that I was alone and had no-one to help me. Neighbours and friends advised me to stay in the marriage and negotiate with the second wife. No-one was there to tell me my rights or advocate for me.
Eventually I heard about Sammunat and went to Kopila-didi and told my story. Kopila-didi went to my area police station and helped me to put in my application for the bigamy charge. The village registered the case and the police arrested my husband. Sammunat helped me to get all I was entitled to. Sammunat told me that they were with me. They told me to have courage and be confident with myself and that I could be independent. From this day I was confident that I was not alone as there were many ladies in Sammunat who had become my friends. I don’t feel alone but I still feel hurt and sad whenever I hear the word “backward”.
Nowadays I am working making clay beads and necklaces. I am very happy and feel very independent, confident and happy. I have one son, I have to live for him. Now it is my duty to send him to school and coming to Sammunat is my daily routine. At last, this is my very painful story.
From the “backward lady”, Anjana