Child Widows

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Child marriages are common in Nepal. If the husband dies, the widowed girls are expelled from social life. They are called Bekalayas, child widows. Married as a child and early widowed. In the men-dominated society of Nepal, they are regarded as witches who “eat” their husbands. They bring misfortune, because they must have committed some sin in the endless cycle of rebirths in one life. At least the Vedas say so, the Hindu scriptures. That is why Bekalayas must pay for their sins in this life. They are untouchables carrying a stigma with like a foul smell. Almost everything is forbidden for them: they can not wear any color other than white, certainly not red. Jewelery is also forbidden. When friends and family celebrate, they are not supposed to take part. They can not visit a temple, eat meat or fish. They can not marry again. They can neither leave the house, nor look into a man’s eyes. For that brings misery, say the men. At best, Bekalayas are tolerated by the community as invisible fellow human beings; In the worst case, they are expelled from their families and villages, outlawed, burnt, murdered. Many young women end up as beggars, prostitutes or as cheap labor for their in-laws.