- By Michael Wilkerson<p> Michael Wilkerson, a journalist and former Fulbright researcher in Uganda, is a graduate student in politics at Oxford University, where he is a Marshall Scholar. </p>
Nepal has to get some credit for creativity with its public policy.
Following an official’s recent suggestion of pocketless pants as a method to reduce airport corruption, the Nepalese government has a new plan. To keep widows integrated into society the government will provide a $650 grant to men who marry them.
The government says that “single women,” as widows are known in Nepal, are often neglected by society, particularly in rural communities. The subsidy is supposed to help by reducing the stigma attached to widows, who traditionally lose their status when their husband dies.
Widows and women’s groups however, were less than thrilled, and around 200 marched in protest yesterday in Kathmandu (pictured at left) telling the government to reverse its decision.
Women chanting slogans and waving placards that read “We don’t want government dowries” and “Don’t put a price on your mother” marched to the government’s headquarters to hand over a letter of protest.
The BBC coverage a few weeks ago helps explain the widows’ point of view:
Widows like 29-year-old Nisha Swar, whose husband was killed by Maoist fighters six years ago, say the policy of offering payment for remarriage could lead to discrimination.
“Men could want to be with us for the sake of getting the 50,000 rupees. It is like putting a price tag on our head and we are very humiliated by this,” she says.
Her friend, 30-year-old widow Poonam Pathak, agrees.
“I feel embarrassed because now anybody walking on the road could say, look, there’s a widow! I could get 50,000 rupees if I married her,” she says.
So far, the government has defended its decision, but even if it is overturned the publicity is a good sign: at least Nepal is concerned about improving the status of widows.
PRADEEP SHRESTHA/AFP/Getty Images