Man swaps wife to settle $15 debt

As the world celebrated the 96th International Women's Day on Wednesday, a man in southeast Nepal paid off his $15 debt by handing over his wife to his debtor.

india Updated: Mar 08, 2006 18:10 IST

As the world celebrated the 96th International Women's Day on Wednesday to mark the emancipation and empowerment of women, a man in southeast Nepal paid off his $15 debt by handing over his wife to his debtor.

Sitaram Pariyar, a resident of Rupnagar village in Saptari district close to the Indian border, hit the headlines in the local media Wednesday with the tale of trading in his wife, Bishnu Maya, to settle a debt of Nepali Rs.1,000 (about $15).

Pariyar had reportedly taken the money from a resident of Kanchanpur village, Chhedilal Yadav, promising to find a bride for Yadav, a two-time widower.

However, when he could neither find a match nor return the money, an angry Yadav started pressing Pariyar to return the sum.

A desperate Pariyar then hit upon the idea of paying off the debt by handing over his first his wife as he had married a second time.

The Kathmandu Post daily, that reported the swap, said both Yadav and Bishnu Maya were happy at the trade.

The woman said she had been leading a "miserable life" since Pariyar married a second time, as she was abused by the new wife as well as Pariyar.

Though polygamy is illegal, it still flourishes in Nepal with public figures, including ministers, indulging in it.

Though over 50 percent of the kingdom's population comprises women, they are still treated as inferior citizens. Families prefer boys to girls and spend more money on the education of sons.

The law too is discriminatory and prevents women from inheriting parental property if they are married. Domestic violence is also a way of life.

Though last year women's rights defenders moved court to strike down discriminatory practices, they still prevail.

While the Supreme Court last year ended chhaupadi - a tradition that forced menstruating women to leave their houses and live in cowsheds - the practice still prevails in villages.

Even women politicians say they are excluded from the decision-making processes in their parties.

The 10-year communist insurgency that has killed over 13,000 people and displaced thousands as well as creating political instability, has worsened the condition of women, triggering rape and trafficking.

In a statement issued on the occasion of International Women's Day, Matthew Kahane, resident coordinator of the UN in Nepal, said the conflict had put women in the "firing line".

"Women find themselves widowed by war or left behind by sons and husbands who have fled to escape forced recruitment or harassment by the combatants," Kahane said.

"As heads of household, they must provide for families, playing new roles in many cases they are not prepared for.

"The courage and tenacity that Nepali women are displaying is admirable but it is also true that the economic and emotional distress they face to ensure the survival of their families increases their risks of physical and mental health problems."

Wife swapping is new buzzword

First Published: Mar 08, 2006 18:10 IST