After 2 weeks in Nepal I noticed that Nepalese women never went anywhere unaccompanied. The male population is very active on the streets. They drive the taxi, give tours and work in construction sights. Women on the other hand are always accompanied by a male date, brother or father. Male friends hung out in the streets, but never groups of females.
In the tourism industry, almost all the positions are filled by men. I only spoke to the nurses in the rehabilitation clinic. I prepared lunch with them while talking about this topic. I asked them why there were so many men on the street, in comparison to women. They told me they have never noticed it. Therefore, I asked more about the role of women in their culture.
The biggest part of the day they are cleaning the house and cooking for the family. We talked about ladylike stuff, like periods. In Nepal, a woman who has her period is not allowed in the kitchen or even touch anything that has anything to do with preparing food. They can’t touch the refrigerator or anything else in relation to food. When the food is served, they have to sit in another room.
Back in the day they weren’t allowed to even sleep in their own house or touch their husband. In fact, the government has placed a ban on “menstrual huts”
less than a year ago. Women were banished to those kinds of huts in the time they had their period. Sometimes the conditions were so bad that women died in those huts. Women also aren’t allowed in temples or any sacred places during that time of the month.
I tried to look at it from their perspective, but still think it’s strange. In Nepal, they don’t use toilet paper. Which means they clean themselves with their left hand and water. Periods are considered “unclean” and it would be unhygienic to touch the food after cleaning yourself. Still, people wipe their asses every day, what seems to be fine, but period seems to be different, something I still can’t understand.
This is one of the differences between men and women in Nepal. There are a lot of cases were women are not as equal as men, way more than in the Netherlands. I noticed that I’m always approached by men, but they treat me with respect. I think the main difference with local women is that I’m a tourist. They see me as someone who brings money and knowledge. Nepalese women tell themselves they are equal to Nepalese men, but the truth doesn’t lie. Men travel for work and are encouraged to go see the world. Parents want their girl to stay home, where it’s safe and they can keep an eye on her.
Over time, the feminist population of Nepal is growing. Social media shows them a different perspective on women’s rights from all over the world. I think it’s great to see the upcoming individuality of women and the strength to pursue their dreams. More and more girls are getting the education they need and have the opportunity to study abroad in India. There is still a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights. It’s going to be hard, but I’m glad to see that the women are standing up for themselves and their rights.
By Li Starmans