Marriage and Love by Nirmala Dhital
Man is a sentient, social being. Women and men have a significant role in the fullness of the family and society. In the absence of either woman or man, social structure can be come upset. Since ancient times the tradition of marriage has existed to make relations between them natural and licit. Marriage as something that makes the family complete is guided by religious, moral, legal and social regulations.
According to renowned psychoanalysts, the stability of marital relations is mostly dependent on sex and those who remain celibate are rare. In other words it is stated categorically that two thirds of the problems besetting man arise from sexual repression. Various situations are associated with marriage, such as physical relations, procreation, mental and emotional ties, companionship and spiritual fellowship.
Nepali society is characterized by narrow minded attitudes concerning marriage, love and affection. On top of that women inthis male dominated society cannot speak out openly because of shyness, and family and social restraints. Moreover, women have been taught since ancient times that sexual urge is something scornful and sinful and should be repressed. As women for the most part have problems in establishing marital relations when compared to men, article 16 among the rights mentioned in the Convention on Eradication of all kinds of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1979 has guaranteed this right to marriage or to freely choose their life partner, under the heading of right to marriage and family.
Marriage for disabled women as a problem and a challenge
The active involvement of various classes, groups and communities and inter-linkages among them are needed for building a society in its entirety. A physically weak class known as the disabled is looked at negatively by society and subjected to ridicule and contempt. Society and the family have never been able to contemplate establishing them in marital ties and rehabilitating them socially and in the family. Disabled or not all have the desire for satisfaction of what nature has given them. It is but natural in human life for all to desire marriage, love-affection and sex. This being a male dominated society, there is no real difficulty for most disabled males to establish marital ties. In fact there are examples here and there of marriage proposals coming to them from the female side, and some of them have married more than one wife. But disabled women have lagged behind in social completeness because first of all they are women, secondly they are poor, thirdly uneducated, fourthly disabled, fifthly lacking in awareness, etc. Because of negative ideas concerning the marital ties with disabled women such as that they cannot have babies, even if they have babies these are also disabled, disabled women do not live long, they remain deprived of their right on one hand and are looked down upon by society on the other. As our society is not so open when it comes to the question of marriage with a disabled woman such women have to remain single for life. Even disabled men hesitate to marry disabled women, preferring instead a life partner who is not disabled.
Disabled women have to bear the frustration of not being able to share with a friend of the opposite sex their feelings of love and affection because of the narrow attitudes prevailing in family and society when it comes to marriage, sexual relations, love, etc. Men come close to disabled women dangling prospects of marriage and express sham love and affection. But there are plenty of examples in our society of men being drawn to disabled women only for sexual satisfaction and to disown them afterwards. The tradition in our society is for women to spend most of her time looking after her in-laws apart from the household chores. Against this tradition setting up a disabled woman in matrimony is a problem because of the prejudiced attitudes such as that she will not be able to meet her traditional responsibilities, satisfy her husband’s sexual needs or look after her children properly. Furthermore, the superstition that a disabled woman will beget a disabled child makes it unavoidable for her to live out her life alone.
United Nations regulations concerning the marriage of disabled women
The United Nations, bearing in mind that disabled women also have an inherent right to marriage, love and affection, has mentioned in Regulation No. 9 of the Evidentiary Regulations of 1994 concerning Generalization of Opportunities for the Disabled under the heading of Family Life and Individual Fulfillment that the law is not to discriminate in matters like marital life and sexual relations. The state has encouraged the full participation of the disabled in family life and promoted individual fulfillment besides making definite arrangements for avoiding discrimination. Disabled people might experience difficulties in getting and establishing a family and although it is mentioned that communications media should beencouraged to play a significant role in changing the negative thinking about the disabled still prevalent in society, the government has apparently not gone about it seriously in spreading awareness to facilitate implementation.
Legal discrimination over the marriage of disabled women
Disabled women have been discriminated against by the law also. Although Nepalese law has prohibited polygamy this practice is allowed in specific circumstances. The Civil Code section no. 9 on marriage allows the husband to marry again if his wife is blind in both eyes, or cannot move about because of a disability. But if the husband suffers from the same disabilities, his wife cannot marry another husband. Instead of making it legally mandatory to provide family social security and upkeep in case of physical disability, the law has created discrimination between disabled and able by making a separate provision that encourages the husband to marry again. The speediest refinement and amendment of such discriminatory law is an urgent need of the day.
The role of the family, society and the state in resolving the problem of marriage of disabled women
If there is a disabled woman in the family it should be made legally binding to give her the right to paternal property on par with the sons. Opportunities should be created for open discussion in front of the disabled women about their marriage, sexual desire, love, etc.. Various NGO’s and governmental bodies and civil society should organize workshops, interactions, discussions and seminars to spread awareness among the general public. Government and civil society should make it legally compulsory to encourage both disabled and able men to marry disabled women through awarding of cash prizes and medals, felicitations, etc.
If as provided in article 12(f) of the proposed disabled service national policy 2053 ((1996/97) under legal facilities, job reservations are provided for able individuals who marry disabled spouses and priority is given to their children in education, training and employment under article 6, and if legal amendments to this effect are implemented as stated, there is a possibility that people will be encouraged to some extent to wed the disabled. The family, society and the state should consider in a positive light and as natural the human desires among the disabled for marriage, affection and family fulfillment. Marriage prospects for disabled women will grow if the family takes the initiative for giving them opportunity for education, health care, skill development, training and self employment and makes them self supporting and capable
citizens. Material on the marriage of disabled women and stories of their success should be included in school level curriculum.
Physically disabled Roma Neupane was born 22 years ago in Sunsari District Itahari Municipality Ward No. 1. At the age of eight she lost her right leg from above the knee when she was run over by a jeep. Although disabled, she has married a non-disabled man and succeeded in putting paid to negative attitudes existing in society. Chiran Pokharel, who chose her for his wife, was born 23 years ago in Asahachetra Chautara-4. This is how Chiran describes his experience. “For me, nobody in the world is completely non-disabled. Everyone has some defect or weakness. That is why nobody need boast that he is able bodied. And I thought why should anyone not get married just because a part of his body is weak. So after four years of encounters and mutual love we tied the nuptial knot in 2061(2004).” Pokharel said earlier – in the beginning I felt that the family would object to my marrying a disabled girl, but gradually I came to learn that they took it in stride, and I am very satisfied with her. Her qualities like self confidence, competence and sense of duty have attracted me greatly.
Roma dances on the stage on her one leg to the great astonishment of the spectators. Before she lost her leg she used to dance during the Dashain and Tihar festivals and sometimes at picnics. She tried to give continuity to this after losing her leg also and finds no difficulty in dancing for five minutes. So far she has danced on the stage 15 times and also received some awards. She says “I can never forget the encouragement to dance given by Buddhiman Majhidai when I first came to Kathmandu three years ago.” Just because she was disabled there was no question of foregoing something indispensable like marriage, she says. After finding a selfless person like Chiran her family life has become very happy and blissful. She is going to appear on the big screen also in the near future. There have been no real challenges of a practical nature that the family has had to face because she is disabled, Chiran says adding – there is nothing that she cannot do. People may be astonished when watching her dance on stage for five minutes, but on seeing the same thing I think I will remain astonished for life. I find it intriguing. Speaking about the marriage of disabled women, she says all able bodied males should take up
something new from today and become an example in society. Disabled women can be just like the able bodied if we work together to help them a little, and they also have desire for marriage, affection, love and sex just like anybody else. Marriage is a social necessity. Disabled or not marriage is an inherent right.
Tika Dahal of Morang District, who has been doing social work for disabled women since a long time, is herself physically disabled. Asked about the marriage of disabled women, she says- “Since Nepal is a male dominated society there is no problem for disabled males who wish to marry. But for disabled females marriage is a problem and an issue which has been emerging gradually these days. So far there is no statistic on how many disabled women have gotten married. As disabled women, their hand has never been sought in marriage through their families, but there are occasional instances of educated males falling in love with and marrying disabled women.”
Similarly, physically disabled Ram Pyari Karki of Nuwakot trains people from various organizations in sewing and cutting. This is what she has to say about the marriage of disabled women-”Even disabled men will not marry disabled women, let alone able bodied men. Are disabled women to remain single all their life?”