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Married & Modern: Why is it a taboo in Nepal?

Who are the Modern Buharis of Nepal?


“The page makes me feel like I am not alone. It tells me how a lot of people are going through similar situations and not talking about it,” says Menuka (name changed to maintain anonymity), founder of ‘Tales of a Modern Buhari’, a feminist Instagram account for married women in Nepal. It provides a platform for Nepali women to anonymously share their experiences of living in a patriarchal society.

 

Buhari in Nepali means daughter-in-law, and 'Modern Buhari' is a married woman who doesn't follow the traditional norms often expected of her. And so, in Nepal, it is a form of insult and a taunt. For example, a married woman who has piercings, tattoos or wears dresses is a 'Modern Buhari' - someone who is perhaps a little too modern for her own good.

 

Inspiration for the page


In a patriarchal country like Nepal, women are taught to be the perfect daughter-in-law and wife from a very young age. They are trained to be the dutiful caretakers of the family who will go to great lengths to please their in-laws and husbands. 


But Menuka was someone who refused to follow patriarchal forms of tradition in the name of culture. For her, the subtle discriminations in her married life were too visible to ignore. 


When she would try bringing up her experiences with fellow married women in her community, many would refuse to discuss or engage with her. 


“[They] fear they would be damaging the reputation of their now-new family,” she says.

 


And so, Menuka decided to start conversations and create a safe space. She wanted to encourage women to openly discuss their discriminatory experiences. This also meant for the page to be anonymous for their safety and privacy.


“Being a daughter, it's a lot easier to voice opinions in your family. But when you are a daughter-in-law, it is difficult to do the same to your in-laws,” she adds.


She hopes her page can prepare younger women who will be married soon. While women go into a marriage expecting rainbows, butterflies, and glamour, the reality can be quite different. 


“You might be in love with your husband and have a good relationship, but you face these little discriminations. Most of the time, you find that out once you experience it since nobody else is talking about it,” she says.  


Breaking stigmas one post at a time


‘Tales of a Modern Buhari’ has started conversations on many topics - from marital abuse and period sex to love languages, dowry, and financial independence. But the one that caught the most attention was female pleasure.


Nepali women are considered “vanilla” when it comes to sexual pleasure. There are almost no conversations surrounding masturbation and women orgasms leading to misconceptions and lack of awareness. When the page decided to explore female pleasure, the posts started pouring.


While many women talked about masturbation, others expressed concerns over not having experienced orgasm after several years of marriage. Some admitted they had to explain to their husbands the basics of female anatomy, sexual pleasure, and even reproductive health, including mensuration.  


“I thought people were not as open to sex. But reading all the stories and comments that came in, I realised that people are experimenting with sex and are very open about it,” she adds. 


A safe space for women


Within nine months, the page has created a non-judgemental community for married women in Nepal. 


Nura Basnet, a 34-year-old ‘Modern Buhari’, has been a dedicated follower of the page for a long time. The page has been an ally for her and makes her feel connected.

 


“I think the page is trying to unite us, women who think alike and have our voices heard and once our voices are out there, to let us know that we are not alone,” she adds. 


Another page on Instagram called @yaunpositivity has also been a dedicated follower of ‘Tales of a Modern Buhari’. They believe that the page’s aim of starting conversations on women’s issues is valuable and creative. 


“The conversations normalise the 'unconventional' aspect of a married Nepali woman,” they added. 


Since they engage in anonymity on their page, they believe that Modern Buhari’s decision to keep the content providers anonymous results in honest and uninhibited confessions while also keeping safety a top priority. 


“People on the internet will engage in cyber stalking and bullying if the identity is revealed, especially if they disagree with the content of the page,” they added. 


What the future holds


‘Tales of a Modern Buhari’ has currently over 9,000 followers, and the community is continuously growing. 


Menuka does not have a plan or goal in mind for the page. She is enjoying creating the content as much as the contributors are enjoying sharing their experiences. But she has been thinking of hosting small zoom sessions where women can have discussions on various topics. 


Whatever the future may hold for the page, the number of married women in Nepal embracing the title of “Modern Buhari'' is on a sharp rise. And that speaks volumes for the growing feminist movement in the country.

About the author

Originally from Nepal, Sakshi is a recent graduate of Masters of Journalism from the University of Melbourne. Instagram: @sakshireports 

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