Marriage and Family
Marriage customs vary among the different castes. Traditional
marriages are arranged by parents, although sometimes with the consent
of the marriage partners. Marriage is sacred, divine, and considered
to endure beyond death. For the Nepalese, chastity (sat, or satitwa in
urban areas) is the most important virtue a woman can bring to a
marriage. Sherpas might live together before getting married. Weddings
are times of great celebration and feasting. They are elaborate and
may last up to three days. In the southern region, called the Tarāi, a
dowry is common.
In Nepal the interests of the family take precedence over those of the
individual. The elderly are respected and cared for by their families.
Traditional households are large and include the extended family. In
many homes, aunts, uncles, and other relatives live together with
their respective families and share the same kitchen. Among the
educated, it is increasingly common for some sons to set up separate
households after marriage rather than live with the extended family.
To slow the recent rapid population growth, the government is
encouraging family planning.
Land is inherited and divided equally between the sons of a family.
Inheritance laws have been reformed, and women are gaining some
property rights; however, women—especially among Hindus—generally have
few rights or privileges in society. They are responsible for the
household and farming—except for plowing—and do not socialize in
public as much as men. While many women work outside the home, it is
more common in urban areas than in rural areas. Women in rural areas
often marry before they are 18 years old. They join their husband’s
extended family at that time and are expected to care for his parents.
Some men have more than one wife.
Most families in rural areas live in modest, two-level houses made of
stone and mud with a few small windows. The upper level is used to
store food. Houses in the cities are built from bricks, stone, or
reinforced concrete. Urban apartment buildings cannot have more than
five stories. Those who live in apartments often share water and
bathroom facilities with others. In the south, where the caste system
is most dominant, a few higher-caste people can afford to live in
large, well-built houses, but the majority of lower-caste people live