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Nepal village's brides starve for lack of loos

Brides in this Nepalese village think they will embarrass their family if they went to the fields in the day.

world Updated: Apr 28, 2007 09:15 IST

Brides are generally fussed over and pampered, but not in one Nepal village where newly married women starve themselves so they don't need to go to the toilet - because there are none and it would embarrass the family if they went to the fields in the day.

In at least one village in Nawalparasi district in the Terai plains, brides are forced to deprive themselves of not only food but also water for lack of toilets.

"Brides can't eat their fill," Kantipur, Nepal's largest selling daily, said.

"It's not the lack of food that's causing them to go hungry. The reason is there are no toilets in the houses."

According to the daily, the Madhesi community - mainly people of Indian origin who live in the Terai plains - are extremely conservative and prefer to keep their women confined to the house, away from the gaze of outsiders.

Newly wed women, who come to their husbands' homes, are not only expected to keep their faces hidden by a fold of their sari draped around the head, like a monk's cowl, they are also not allowed to go outside the house as long as there is daylight.

In the Terai region, one of the most underdeveloped in the country, most Madhesi houses in the villages have no toilet.

People, including women, go out in the fields to relieve themselves.

But since custom dictates that it will mar the prestige of the family if the new bride is seen outside in daylight, the girl is allowed to visit the nearby field only at dawn and after dusk.

To prevent the need to urinate or defecate during the day, the young women eat as little as they can and drink water only in tiny quantities, even during the hot summer season, which at times causes heat waves in the Terai plains.

At times, it's the mother-in-law who rations food and water to the new bride, the report said.

The report comes at a time the Terai region has been the cynosure of all eyes in Nepal and neighbour India as the cradle of new ethnic protests.

Several groups from the plains, some of whom are armed, are waging agitations, purportedly to gain equal rights for people living in the plains.

Despite the protests, Terai remains one of Nepal's least literate regions, where untouchability, the caste system and persecution of women on the suspicion they are witches casting evil spells, are still rampant.

First Published: Apr 28, 2007 08:56 IST