Minority within a Minority
Reflecting on Marital Violence in the
Nepali American Community
BIDYA RANJEET AND BANDANA PURKAYASTHA
Compared to many other groups of Asian origin, Nepali Americans have remained below the radar in regards to both scholarly and activist interests about their lives in the United States. The lack of systematic governmental data on this community as well as the tendency of outsiders to consider Nepali Americans as no different from Indians contributes to their veritable invisibility. There are very few and scattered descriptions of the history, socioeconomic profile, numbers, and concentration of Nepali immigrants in the United States. Accounts of domestic violence in the Nepali American community, a subject that is often shrouded by cultures of silence, are even more difficult to track.
We have attempted to partially address these gaps of information in this chapter.1 First, we describe the legal and sociocultural position of Nepali and Nepali American women. Second, based on our dialogues with several Nepali American women who are part of a Nepali women's network, we discuss dimensions of domestic violence, focusing particularly on underreporting of such violence and the culture of silence surrounding it. Third, we discuss the reasons for the relative (in)ability of Nepali American women to seek help from South Asian women's domestic violence organizations. Given the problems of gathering systematic data, we cannot describe exactly how often violence occurs or how prevalent it is across social strata. However, we discovered that almost all Nepali women we approached in different parts of the country were aware of some cases of domestic violence in the community. This persistent pattern of awareness within our small sample is indicative of the existence of wider patterns of violence throughout the Nepali American community writ large.
This chapter draws on both secondary and primary data to present several dimensions of domestic violence among Nepali Americans. We obtained much of