Escaping a marriage of misery

Honour-bound … Bimala Devi Kadariya says she will have to wed the man who abused her older sister if she is forced to return to Nepal. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

IF SHE is made to return to Nepal, Bimala Devi Kadariya says she faces an ”honour” marriage to the man who abused her older sister so badly she took her life.

The 23-year-old, who says she has been warned she must take her sister’s place to erase the shame from the family, has been told that she does not qualify for Australia’s protection. After recently completing her studies in Sydney, Ms Kadariya has been refused a humanitarian visa by the Department of Immigration and the Refugee Review Tribunal. The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, has been asked to intervene and a spokesman said Ms Kadariya’s case was under consideration.

”I am most afraid of my dead sister’s husband,” Ms Kadariya said. ”If my father forces me to marry, I don’t know what I will do because I cannot bear to think about the possibility of being married to the man that caused my sister to suicide.”

Ms Kadariya was nine when she discovered the body of her older sister, Nirmala, hanging from a tree outside their family home in a remote village. Nirmala had returned to the family home and told them she could no longer bear the pain of the beatings from her husband.

Ms Kadariya said their father had insisted that Nirmala return and apologise to her husband because he considered it a big mistake for a woman to run away. While the cultural obligations regarding marriage were strict, Ms Kadariya said her sister had refused her father’s request.

”It was a great humiliation for my father if he encouraged his married daughter to remain in his home.”

Ms Kadariya says that she was promised in marriage to her brother-in-law when she was old enough to marry at the age of 13. When the marriage was due to take place, however, she ran away and sought refuge with her older siblings, who then helped her to leave the country for Australia on a student visa.Ms Kadariya has been in Australia for three years and recently completed a business diploma. She has been living at Homebush with the help of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Refugee Advocacy and Pastoral Care group. The group intervened and made an application for a visa on her behalf fearing for her mental health and safety if she returned to Nepal.

Her student visa has expired, her brother and sister in Nepal cannot support her financially and Ms Kadariya says the threat of the marriage deal still stands.

”My father and the community leaders will force me into a marriage that frightens me,” she said.

”If they hear that I am in the country they will find me and force me into the violent marriage and the Nepalese government will not protect me from this because women are supposed to do what they are told by their fathers, husbands and community elders.”

A spokesman for the Nepalese embassy in Canberra said that under Nepalese law no one could be forced into marriage.

In rejecting her visa application, both the department and the Refugee Review Tribunal said because Ms Kadariya had managed to avoid the marriage in the years after she ran away, it was unlikely she would be forced into it on her return. But her brother has already warned her in writing that she should ”think seriously about your returning to Nepal”.

”He told me recently that Rajan [her brother-in-law] is still waiting for me and that my father told him he would give me to Rajan as soon as I return from my studies,” she said.

A spokesman for Mr Bowen’s office said the department was assessing Ms Kadariya’s claims against the guidelines on ministerial powers regarding an intervention in the case.

”While this case is still is in progress, the department will continue to work with her to ensure she remains lawfully in Australia while her case is considered.”-source Sydney Morning Herald

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