foreign employment because of high unemployment at home, also adds to infidelity. Police and government representatives confirm an increase in men and women reporting extramarital affairs, which are illegal, but evidence is difficult to find. Sociologists suggest a socio-cultural repositioning of attitudes toward marriage in order to make relationships more equitable and realistic.
There has been no study yet to show the percentage of Nepal’s population having extramarital affairs, says Shishir Subba, a psychology professor at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. But he says the cases of infidelity have been increasing in recent years.
Nepalese society has been historically closed, Subba says. But increasing education, awareness, means of communication, study abroad and foreign migration have liberalized local attitudes.
Nepalese society is traditional, conservative and patriarchal, deeming marriage essential for women, says Mina Upreti, an assistant sociology professor at Tribhuvan University’s Trichandra Multiple Campus. In the past, men have been in control of women’s economic, social and sexual roles.
But with more women pursuing education, they no longer put up with unsatisfactory situations at home, she says. The institution of marriage has been changing. Women marry for security then pursue a more meaningful exchange of emotions and feelings elsewhere.
“Women use their husband’s resources to start and continue their relationships with other men,” Upreti says.
Extramarital affairs have long been against the societal norm in both love and arranged marriages. But this has been changing.
“The society is getting liberal gradually regarding sexual affairs,” Upreti says. “Therefore, these things are taken as normal.”
Overseas employment has been another factor.
Because of deteriorating employment in Nepal, many young people migrate overseas for employment, say Nirmala Sitaula, legal counselor for the National Women Commission, established by the government in 2007 to improve gender equality.
On one hand, the economy of the country depends on the remittances sent by these foreign migrant workers, she says. On the other hand, their spouses often squander the money or engage in extramarital affairs or incest, causing families to disintegrate.
Like Khadka, Binu Lama, 32, also developed an extramarital affair while her husband was working overseas.
Lama, from a village in Gorkha, a district west of Kathmandu, says she fell in love with and married her husband 11 years ago. But four years after their marriage, he sought employment in Saudi Arabia.
Although he came back twice to visit her and their child, he continued to renew his contract overseas. He and Lama eventually lost touch, so she pursued a relationship with another man from her village, who was married with three children.
Like her husband, he was also working abroad, but they used to talk regularly over the phone, Lama says. They dated for three years and recently got married, without divorcing their spouses.
After returning to Kathmandu from abroad several months ago, Lama’s new husband did not go to his house in Gorkha to visit his wife and children. He came instead to the lodge in Kathmandu where Lama lives.
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