The following is a verbatim reproduction — with permission — of yesterday’s (Dec. 18) Instagram post by Nirvana Bhandary.
It’s about how a young adult cousin of hers — a medical Doctor living and practicing in Australia — has been put through a lot of emotional and mental agony for three weeks by her family pressuring her to accept the marriage proposal from a complete stranger. I am sure her family doesn’t think or believe for a second that they are inflicting ANY agony in the Doctor. They probably have NO clue! Or, if they do know, they are likely in complete denial because they are likely thinking mostly about themselves!
I reproduce it here because, sadly, this is NOT an exceptional story, in the sense that it’s not an unusual one. This is actually the story of many young adult Nepali women (and men). This is something many Nepali parents will drag their young adult children through whether the child likes it or not. This likely also is a contributor to the fact that the biggest killer of reproductive age females is SUICIDE!
Why do Nepali families do this? There’s likely a number of different reasons depending on the ethnicity and/or caste of the family etc. But the reasons most families give revolve around one or more of the following three:
- “This is our culture,”
- “As parents this is our responsibility,”
- “This is necessary to preserve our family’s honor/prestige/dignity/respect/status etc.”
In other words, it’s really about subscribing to the traditional Nepali belief that tradition and family is more important and valuable than the needs, wants, and desires of an individual.
Incidentally, being the brahmanical patriarchal society that Nepal is, the “honor/dignity/prestige” of a family in Nepal, especially of families who consider themselves to be of high stature, depends a lot more on what a daughter does or doesn’t do AND even what happens to her than a son. What I mean is, a daughter who is raped brings more shame to the family than a son who rapes!
* * * * * * * *
My closest cousin sister just turned 31. She is a doctor in Australia and therefore an extensive manhunt is underway to find a husband for her of immaculate reputation and the finest breeding.
She came to me almost crying yesterday. This woman that I adore and admire for her passion and perseverance, for the enriching life she leads as a happily single woman. She told me her parents have been pressuring her mercilessly for the past three weeks to accept a recent marriage proposal. I could not believe that they have destroyed her self-esteem, crippled her self of self and almost traumatised her to the idea of marriage – TO THAT EXTENT within a span of three weeks.
The thing that is weighing hardest on her is that her parents do not listen to her “NO”. That no matter how many times she has tried to explain why she does not want this, they just do not process that information and the conversation repeats every day.
How can our parents claim to want the best for us when they demoralise us by saying our biological clock is ticking and that no one will want us after a certain age? How can they actually believe that destroying our autonomy and independence is what is best for us? How can they believe that emotionally guilting us and ignoring all our protests is what real parental love is?!
When she told me it has been going on for three weeks my heart cried for her. That she has been living in that environment of pressure constantly for three weeks. And now I think about girls who are indoctrinated with the idea of arranged marriage from the age of eighteen or younger, for YEARS. [According to 2011 census report 3 out of 4 married women had been married off before she had turned 20.] When this choice of arranged marriage simply becomes embedded into a life plan designed for her when she was born. Finish school, Bachelors, Masters, arranged marriage, kids, death. There is never a negotiation, or escape. It is an expectation of what a respectable Nepali woman will do.
We say that arranged marriage gives women no choice, but her parents and family CHOOSE to carry on this problematic practice. They have the CHOICE to let it go, to not make their children go through something that ended their independence at a very young age, where they never got to experience true love, dating, sex, relationships. Our parents did not get to develop an INDIVIDUAL IDENTITY. They did not get the opportunity to make mistakes and learn through that what they loved, hated and what kind of life they wanted to create for themselves.
They were snatched of the beautiful human right to let love flourish organically. Instead, it was always “LOVE WILL DEVELOP OVER TIME”.
Hello, ma’am, if your parents legally sign you up to swimming classes FOR LIFE, of course you will eventually learn to float so you do not DROWN AND DIE.
We need to call up our family members when they think it is fun and entertaining to come to us with random marriage proposals, when they encourage matchmakers to seek out prospective grooms. We need to hit them with the facts, to shame them, to even trigger their own sad and repressed memories of their first years in an unhappy and oppressive arranged marriage. Maybe then they will finally have empathy for us and leave adult women the fuck alone to live our own lives.
* * * * * * * *
What do you think?
(Parents in Nepal marry off their children at a very young age. According to 2011 Census Report, 74% of females who had once been married or were still married had been married off before they had turned 20! 80% of males who had married at one time or another, or were still married, had been married off before they had turned 25! What I discovered to be the most surprising however was the fact that 36% of those 10 and over — that is 1 in 3 — had NEVER married! For more about all that click here.)