By Lochana Sharma
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Among an indigenous group in Nepal’s western region, the human rights violation of kidnapping women and girls for marriage is still a matter of masculine pride. Stealing a bride is more honorable than eloping, one husband says.
— Mendok Gurung, 19, says a group of men kidnapped her six years ago from a family wedding. The abductors weren’t interested in a ransom. They stole her because a villager twice her age wanted to marry her.
Now she sits next to that villager and refers to him as the husband whom she didn’t have any choice in marrying.
“Because of our tradition, I stayed with him,” she says.
Her husband, Norbu Gurung, 40, says that this tradition is still strong in the Nepali-Tibetan border areas of the country’s western region. He acknowledges that the tradition doesn’t respect women’s wishes or rights, but says it brings honor to the men.
“Even if men and women like each other, there’s this tradition of ‘stealing’ the girl and eloping,” he says. “When you steal a girl, it is more reputed. But sometimes, when the girl isn’t ready, there could be a big fight between the two families.”
Nepal has one of the highest early- and forced-marriage rates, according to a 2011 report by Plan, a global children’s charity headquartered in England. The average age of first marriage in Nepal is below 18.
Although the practice is illegal and can be punished by prison sentences, it proceeds unhindered in an indigenous community in Mustang, a district in Nepal’s western region.