James Edwin Bettney

04.09.2013 in18:55 in Documentary, Portraits -->


“These images represent over 3 years of exploration into the lives of women in Nepal who face an intolerable struggle due to long standing social and religious conformity within the national community. In Nepal a widow is looked upon with great animosity. It is believed that the actions in their previous life contribute to the death of their husband. They have therefore been ostracised for generations, losing their status in both the home and society.

From the low-lying flatlands that border India, known as the ‘Terei’, to the most majestic of mountain ranges, the Himalaya and the world’s summit, Mount Everest. Nepal is a nation that is host to one of the most diverse topographies on the planet and a country that already faces a multitude of developmental issues.
The extremes in it’s landscape are matched in it’s dynamic social and governmental institutions. In 1996, the Maoist Party of Nepal declared civil war in-order to overthrow the Monarchy and after a decade of fighting, countless lives lost and thousands losing their homes, the conflict ended, leaving a trail of economic destruction.
In Nepali culture a widow is looked upon with great animosity, often being branded a witch or a whore. Their society believes it is their immoral actions in a previous life that form the defining reason behind the death of their husband. They have therefore been ostracised for generations, losing their status in both the home and society.
A wife in Nepal is considered the home maker and is highly celebrated, in some senses, worshipped. It is the men that provide the financial income, in whatever form that may take. Their wife’s role is to raise the children and perform her domestic duties. Appearance is regarded as a salient aspect of a Nepali woman’s identity, adorning intricately embroidered clothing, customarily in red, as this very colour represents the virtuous bond of marriage and the binding vows which provide her with status and security within society.
It is a saddening irony that these lovingly worshipped ‘goddesses’ within the community can soon descend into an ever increasing spiral of discrimination and paralyzing social exclusion for no other reason than that of the passing of her husband. Already encountering the grief that one suffers when losing a loved one, these women face an additional and more debilitating reality, they have to come to terms with existing on society’s brutal and neglected peripheral edge.
This work could not have been completed without the cooperation of WHR-SWG (Women for Human Rights – Single Women’s Group) whose dedicated and persistent campaigning has not only been the catalyst for real and palpable change within Nepal but is now extending it’s caring arms to protect the single women that are affected throughout the entirety of South Asia.”

Written in their Karma…

James Edwin Bettney