Finance Minister Surendra Pandey and the Nepalese government released a budget for fiscal year 2009/2010 this week, which includes a cash incentive for men who marry widows. According to the planned budget, any widow who remarries will receive 50,000 Nepali rupees, about $645.
Nepalese activist Lily Thapa, who founded Women for Human Rights (WHR) and the Single Women’s Group (SWG), is urging the government to support widows in Nepal without the cash marriage incentives. Thapa believes the funds should be used for social security payments, health care, and education for widows. In an interview on a private television channel Thapa said, “It is tantamount to regarding women as commodities. The money the government is offering to give grooms to marry widows is perpetuating the dowry system.”
Nepal’s civil war, which began in the 1990s and lasted through 2006 and the HIV epidemic have caused the deaths of significant numbers of young men. Nepal’s government provides a pension for widows 60 years and older, but the majority of widows in Nepal are younger than 60. Nisha Swar, a 29 year-old widow, whose husband was killed six years ago, told the BBC that this new policy will 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.” Sixty-seven percent of the widowed women in Nepal are between the ages of 25 to 30 years, according to China View.