Remittance is keeping Nepal's economy afloat despite the recent war and the prolonged political transition, but is also creating a string of social, cultural and health problems. Families are breaking apart, and the notion that marriage is a life-long bond is no longer relevant. Number of divorce cases is on the rise.
Maya Lama (name changed) is a 26 years old woman from Bethan village of Ramechhap district. She recently divorced her husband Kumar Lama (name changed), who had gone to work in Malaysia as a security guard. He worked there for five years and returned home only twice. When he returned, he also brought along with him an Indonesian girl.
"That was that, I had no choice but to call it quits," says Maya, who believed that they could not handle a long-distance relationship. "He would call me at least twice a week in the first few months, but then he started making fewer calls. When he fell in love with this Indonesian girl, he would hardly call me."
Maya believes Kumar's decision to marry another woman was driven by his biological needs. "After he came back, I still tried to live with him, but he used to belittle me by saying how I ugly I looked. He also put pressure on me to divorce him. So I was left with no choice."
When I knew I was being cheated, I came back but that was too late. She had eloped taking all the money and jewelries.
Sukrani Moktan (name changed), a 33 years old woman from Goganpani village of Dhading, has also filed for divorce with her husband.
Sukrani worked as a housemaid in Dubai for over the last two years, and she experienced torture and exploitation. She wanted to return home but her husband did not allow her to come back fearing loss of regular income.
“My husband thought my own behavior led me to physical and mental torture," she says. "And I decided that I would not need a husband who does not feel my pain. The fact that I am not financially dependent on him emboldened me to take this extreme step."
Krishna Bahadur Shrestha, a 40-year-old from Chapagaun of Lalitpur, has a similar story to share. He left for Bahrain seven years ago leaving his wife and two kids back home. But his wife started having an affair with a man from their own neighborhood. "When I knew I was being cheated, I came back but that was too late. She had eloped taking all the money and jewelries ," he says. "In retrospect, I think I made a mistake by going abroad. I earned money but could not save my relationship."
These are just some cases of family breakdowns caused by outmigration of married men and women.
According to the census report 2011, one in every four households (25.42 per cent) has someone working elsewhere, mostly abroad. The highest proportion (44.81 per cent) of the absent population is from the age group 15-24 years.
Migrant workers send home billions of rupees every year. According to the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), Nepal received Rs 617.28 billion in remittance in the fiscal year 2014/15 . These figures stood at Rs 543.29 billion in 2013/14 and Rs 434.58 billion in 2012/13.
As increasingly more husbands and wives live away from each other, they often end up finding it difficult to save their long-distance relationship. Some migrant workers somehow save their family ties, others often end up divorcing.
The data from the Kathmandu District Court (KDC) shows that the number of divorce cases has been on the rise.
The divorce cases recorded in KDC is 1039 in the fiscal year 2009/10, 1203 in 2010/11, 1317 in 2011/12, 1824 in 2012/13, 2108 in 2013/14 and 2256 in the fiscal year 2014/15.
According to the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), Nepal received a total remittance income of Rs 617.28 billion in the fiscal year 2014/15 which is Rs 543.29 billion in 2013/14 and Rs 434.58 billion recorded in 2012/13.
Women rights activist Manju Gurung says foreign employment is one of the major reasons behind the rise in divorce cases. Social problems like dysfunctional families, crimes, school dropouts, deteriorating cultural and social values are the darker sides of foreign employment. The trend extra marital affairs, which is often driven by sexual needs, is rising, and it often leads to divorce.
Foreign employment is one of the major reasons behind the rise in divorce cases. Social problems like dysfunctional families, crimes, school dropouts, deteriorating cultural and social values are the darker sides of foreign employment.
Women migrant workers also file for divorce because they return home with health problems and their families no longer accept them. There are also cases in which women migrants have been tortured because they did not want to file for divorce.
Anthropologist Ram Hari Dhakal says remittance has helped raise living standards but has also created social problems like divorce. "As they live apart, they often search for new partners to fulfill their biological needs," he says. " Once they find someone else, their martial relations come under risk."
Many also use social media like Facebook to keep a tab on their spouses' activities. It also creates suspicion and misunderstanding.
Psychiatrist Dr Saroj Ojha, an associate professor at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, says lack of proper communication that often leads to misunderstanding is the reason behind estranged relationship. And migrant workers have failed to overcome the pitfalls of long-distance relationship, he says.
Ameeta Dixit, an advocate at Supreme Court, says the rate at which divorce cases are increasing is alarming, and the government must do something. "It is high time we reversed migration," she says. "The government should create employment opportunities in Nepal to tackle this problem."