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Niraula, Bhanu B. & Morgan, S. Philip (1996). Marriage Formation, Post-Marital Contact with Natal Kin and Autonomy of Women: Evidence from Two Nepali Settings. Population Studies, 50(1), 35-50.


We have conducted surveys specifically designed to study the autonomy/power of women in two Nepali settings. Setting I is in the hills, 75 kilometers southwest of Kathmandu; Setting II is in the tarai (plains) a few kilometers from the border with India. Previously the authors have shown that women in the hill setting have much more autonomy/power than women in the tarai setting. In this paper we focus on aspects of marriage formation and post-marital kin contact and their possible effects on women's autonomy/power. Specifically, we measure women's autonomy/power with indicators of women's freedom of movement and power in making household decisions. We assess whether these indicators are influenced by aspects of mate selection and kinship, including patrilocal post-marital residence, arranged marriages, emphasis on the virginity of brides, village exogamy, dowry, and contact with natal kin. We show that marriage regimes differ substantially in the two settings. While marriages in both settings are usually arranged, some love marriages are reported in Setting I. Furthermore, the mean age at ceremonial marriage in the tarai (Setting II) is about 11.5 years compared with 14.5 in the hills (Setting I). In some cases, we find that individual-level indicators of mate selection or kinship are associated with individual-level measures of women's autonomy. But these associations cannot account for the dramatically different degrees of autonomy in these settings. Such findings do not imply that kin relations and marriage formation are irrelevant for women's autonomy/power. But they do challenge the version of these arguments that isolates marriage/kinship effects at the individual level. Autonomy, while measurable at the individual level, is determined primarily by broad-based institutional arrangements and associated community social control.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Population Studies


Niraula, Bhanu B.
Morgan, S. Philip