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Inter-Caste Couples Eligible For Government Grants in Nepal To Prevent Dalit Discrimination

by Tanya Thomas on July 15, 2009 at 10:26 AM
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 Inter-Caste Couples Eligible For Government Grants in Nepal To Prevent Dalit Discrimination

In a bid to discourage discrimination against the lowest Dalit caste, Nepal's new government said on Monday that it would provide almost 1,300 dollars to inter-caste couples who marry.

Finance Minister Surendra Pandey said inter-caste marriages were still frowned upon, and he hoped that the 100,000-rupee (1,270-dollar) payment would help such couples in the early days of their marriage.

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"Society still rejects inter-caste marriage between Dalits and non-Dalits and the initial days of couples thus married are normally tough," he told parliament as he presented the government's new budget.

"To encourage such inter-caste marriage, the government will provide a grant of 100,000 rupees to the newly married couple within 30 days of marriage registration."
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Discrimination against Dalits, who make up around 13 percent of Nepal's population, was outlawed in the 1960s.

But the tradition of "untouchability" survives, particularly in rural areas, where Dalits are frequently banned from entering temples or drinking from communal wells.

Subash Darnal, a caste activist who is himself a Dalit, welcomed the new policy but said the government would have to take care to prevent abuses.

"This sounds like a very good initiative from the government side," he told AFP.

"But very good initiatives can go wrong if they are not carried out seriously. What would happen if the husband accepted the money then abandoned his wife?"

Pandey also announced plans to help widows, who frequently find themselves ostracised in Nepal, by providing a 50,000 rupee grant to married couples where the wife was previously widowed.

He said the government would also introduce measures to increase widows' access to employment.

Source: AFP
TAN
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