OKHALDHUNGA, Jan 27: Putali Maya Rai of Ubu village was 16 when she got married. After five years, she lost her husband to an accident. The responsibility of their single child befell on her. In addition, there were elderly parents-in-law who also needed her care. She continued doing what was expected of her and nobody ever asked her if she would like to marry again.
"I do feel lonely. I have gone through many hardships in those years, an emotional crisis is even a dangerous thing," she recounts. "But remarrying is neither a small deal nor an easy option."
Rai, who is 25 now, understands the social scenario. If a man is single, his family shows desperation to find a woman for him right away. But single women are not that privileged. "My family members love me, they are caring. But love is one thing, understanding is another thing. They do not try to understand."
It is not just the silence of her family members that makes her feel hesitant about remarrying, but it also her concerns for her son. She feels that if she remarries, his future may get jeopardized and that restrains her thoughts.
"He is my son and I love him more than myself. How am I to find someone who loves him the same way? It is not easy to find someone like that. So, there are complexities in remarrying," said Rai.
Pem Doma Sherpa, 37, is also a widow. A resident of Khijidemba Rural Municipality - 5, she got married when she was 18. Her husband, who was a Maoist combatant died during the conflict. She does not have any child, but still, she is single.
"After his death, I decided not to marry again. But over the time, I have realized that marriage is important. You cannot live a lonely life forever," she said. "I have remained single so far. But I support remarriage of any single man or woman, there is no point in suffering from loneliness," she added.
According to Sherpa, remarriage of younger women is even more essential and society should encourage such practices. "But while saying so, I feel sorry for the kids that the women may have from their previous marriage. When mothers or fathers go for remarriage, children often suffer," she noted.
It is not just the silence of her family members that makes her feel hesitant about remarrying, but it also her concerns for her son. She feels that if she remarries, his future may get jeopardized and that restrains her from considering remarriage.
Sherpa is associated with several woman organizations and has been advocating for remarriage of single women or widow for a long time now. Until and unless the society changes the lens with which it looks at women, women 's liberation is not possible, she says.
Thirty-two-year-old Aruna Rai also advocates that single women should remarry. But she has not mustered this courage for herself. Her husband committed suicide four years ago. The responsibility of their two kids fell on her shoulder. "I am hundred percent in favor of remarriage of single women. If they remain alone, life becomes extremely difficult as everyone tries to take advantage, looks down upon them," explains Aruna. "But for marriage, it is hard to find a suitable match."
After her husband died, Aruna actually became the target of her own family members. According to her, she was abused and threatened. "Because he had committed suicide they thought that I was the cause. They started being very intolerant towards me. But I do not know the cause of the accident, even now," she stated.
The lack of support from family and society and the responsibility of children keep single women from taking the decision of remarriage, she stated. "We get worried about the future of our children rather than our own. And thus, we cannot go for another marriage. Moreover, the society does not think about us as sympathetically as it does for men," said Aruna. "If the same incident had happened with me, had I died before him, the family would have pressurized him to get married within a little time, isn't it?"
These are only representative cases. There are hundreds of single women in the district and thousands across the country who want to go for remarriage to lead a convenient life but cannot do so due to the lack of support from their family and due insecurities about new life.
Even amid the increasing presence of women in the economic and political fronts, the pillars of patriarchy have not weakened yet resulting in lesser choice and space for women. As per the data of census 2011, the number of widows in Nepal is 498,606 and 67,000 of them are under 25 years of age.