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Polyandry in Nepal: A fading tradition

Polyandry in Nepal: A fading tradition
Nepal is a country with diverse cultures and traditions, where marriage is considered a sacred and social bond between a husband and a wife. However, in some parts of Nepal, especially in the Himalayan regions, there is a rare and declining practice of polyandry, where a woman marries two or more husbands at the same time. This article explores the reasons, features, and challenges of polyandry in Nepal.

Reasons for polyandry
Polyandry in Nepal is mainly practiced by some ethnic groups, such as the Nyinba of Humla district, the Loba of Upper Mustang region, and the Tibetan communities of Dolpa and Sankhuwasabha districts. These groups live in remote and harsh environments, where resources are scarce and land is limited. Polyandry helps them to preserve their family land and avoid fragmentation, as well as to reduce the number of dowries and provide security for the woman and her children. Polyandry also helps to control the population growth and balance the sex ratio, as there are usually more men than women in these areas.

Polyandry in Nepal is usually fraternal, meaning that a woman marries two or more brothers from the same family. The brothers share the same wife and have equal sexual access to her. The children born from this union are considered to belong to all the husbands, and they inherit their father's name and property. The eldest brother is usually the head of the household and has more authority than the younger ones. The wife has to perform domestic chores and take care of the children and the husbands. She also has to divide her time and attention among them according to their needs and preferences.

Features of polyandry
Polyandry in Nepal has some distinctive features that make it different from other forms of marriage. Some of them are:

•  Polyandry is based on blood ties and loyalty. The brothers who marry the same woman are considered to be the closest relatives, and they have to cooperate and support each other. The wife can only marry within the same clan or caste, and she cannot marry outside her husband's family.

•  Polyandry is flexible and adaptable. The number of husbands can vary depending on the availability of men and women, as well as the economic and social conditions. Sometimes, a woman may marry only one husband if there are no other suitable brothers, or she may marry more than five husbands if there are many brothers available. Sometimes, a husband may leave or join the marriage depending on his personal circumstances or preferences.

•  Polyandry is secretive and discreet. The polyandrous families usually live in isolated areas, away from the mainstream society. They do not publicize their marriage arrangement, and they try to avoid any conflicts or controversies with their neighbors or authorities. They also do not register their marriage legally, as polyandry is not recognized by the Nepali law.

Challenges of polyandry
Polyandry in Nepal is facing many challenges from modernization, migration, education, and legal reforms. Many young people prefer monogamy or other forms of marriage, and they do not want to follow their parents' tradition. They also have more opportunities to travel, study, work, and interact with different cultures and lifestyles. Some women have faced discrimination and violence from their husbands or in-laws, who may treat them as inferior or property. Some men have felt insecure or jealous of their co-husbands, who may compete for their wife's affection or attention. Some children have felt confused or ashamed of their family background, and they may face bullying or teasing from their peers.

Polyandry is also not compatible with the Nepali law, which only allows monogamy or polygyny (one man with multiple wives). Women in polyandrous marriages have no legal rights or protection, such as inheritance, divorce, custody, alimony, or citizenship. They also have no access to health care, education, or social services. They may face legal action or social stigma if their marriage is exposed or reported.

Polyandry in Nepal is a unique and ancient tradition that has survived for centuries in some ethnic groups. It has some advantages for preserving family resources and ensuring family welfare in harsh environments. However, it also has some disadvantages for women's rights and dignity, as well as for men's and children's well-being. Polyandry is also illegal and immoral according to the Nepali law and society. Therefore, polyandry in Nepal is a fading tradition that may soon disappear.


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