The situation of women in Nepal:

The social structure of Nepal is inherently patriarchal, treating women as subordinate to men and rendering them subjects of physical, psychological and sexual violence. Nepal’s constitution guarantees equal rights to men and women, but the reality of the matter is that laws regarding issues such as marriage, divorce, rape, trafficking and abortion often do work to the disadvantage of women or are too difficult to enforce. Not only does the law frequently discriminate against them, religious and cultural norms and practices also endorse many types of socially accepted violence against women.

Women are prescribed oppressive roles from birth and are frequently denied basic human rights such as good health, education, autonomy over their own bodies and self determination over their own lives. There is a distinct lack of opportunities for women in comparison to men in Nepal which, due to factors such as strong social codes, property laws that are biased towards men and oppressive marital obligations, cause women to be trapped in a lifelong financial and psychological dependence on their families and their husbands.

The situation of female burns survivors in Nepal

The principal causes of burns incidents are fires created by kerosene stoves, gas explosions, open fire cooking and candles (candles are used a lot in Nepal due to frequent electricity shortages).

The majority of burns accidents happen in the kitchen due to the often precarious nature of cooking equipment and a lack of health and safety awareness. Owing to the gender imbalance in Nepalese society the majority of people in such accidents are women, as they are ones who work in the kitchen. Poverty is also a key factor as due to a lack of education and work opportunities in poor families the women are forced to stay at home to do domestic chores such as cooking. Rich families, on the other hand will often hire servants for such jobs.

A lot of female burns survivors are also caused by suicide attempts, in which women are forced out of desperation and despair to set fire to themselves in an attempt to end their life as an alternative to the daily suffering they are forced to endure. On surviving a suicide attempt they are consequently loaded with the double burden of their previous daily agony, along with the pain, suffering and stigma that comes with their scars.

Consequences for burns survivors: social, familial, psychological and physical


The stigma that a burns survivor will suffer in Nepal is usually very different to that of a burns survivor in western countries. In Nepal a women who has been left physically scarred after an accident is often regarded by those around her as dirty and polluted. Society sees her as having been left unclean by her injuries and is consequently rejected by them through their fear of contamination. There also exists the prevalent superstition that, due to their accidents, these women are unlucky and that this bad luck can affect those around her. This leads to further rejection which in turn creates total isolation and an inability to integrate into society.


Many women are rejected by their families after an accident for bringing shame to the family and for being a physical and financial burden. Often injuries are so serious that a woman cannot even clean herself let alone work. This is a particular problem in poor families who do not have the time or money to provide this type of care. If a woman is left physically scarred she is also considered by society to be unfit for marriage. Unable to find a husband her only option is to continue being supported parents; often being considered a burden and as bringing shame on the family.


All of the above produce social stigma and isolation which can produce extremely low self esteem, feelings of self hatred and a fear of leaving the house in anticipation of the hostile reactions she may receive, consequently creating isolation and an inability to integrate into society.


Women suffer a lot of physical pain during and for a long time after a burns accident. They are left with serious scars on their bodies which, depending on the severity of the burns, can be disabling to the extent that she is incapable of performing simple tasks like washing and dressing herself without assistance. This leaves her incapable of working and totally dependant on others.

Health and hospitals:

There is a distinct lack of medical care in Nepal. Private hospitals are too expensive for the average Nepali to afford and public hospitals are short on staff and resources. In remote rural areas conditions are worse where it can take up to three to four days to reach the nearest hospital and even on arrival they are not assured immediate attention.

For burns accidents the situation is particularly bad with many hospitals having no doctors at all who have had the necessary training to treat such injuries. Even in public hospitals medical treatment is extremely expensive and waiting time can be up to a number of days.

SKM is a private, German funded hospital 15km outside of Kathmandu which currently has the best facilities for burns patients in Nepal. They offer financial assistance to low income families.