KATHMANDU, Aug 10, 2009 (AFP) - About 200 Nepalese women gathered in the capital Kathmandu on Monday to protest against government plans to pay men to marry widows.
The government said last month it would introduce a 50,000-rupee (650-dollar) grant for marriages involving a widow.
The plan is part of a scheme to help widowed women, who are frequently ostracised by traditional rural communities in Nepal.
But rights campaigners say the payments reduce widows to a source of cash, and want the money to be spent instead on improving access to education and healthcare for widows and their children.
Women chanting slogans and waving placards that read "We don't want government dowries" and "Don't put a price on your mother" marched to the government's headquarters to hand over a letter of protest.
"We are totally against the government's decision to give 50,000 rupees as an incentive to couples to marry," said protest organiser Lily Thapa.
"This goes against the principles of human rights. That's why we urge the government to bring in other social security measures to empower women who are widowed."
Campaigners have also expressed concern that the payments could encourage men to marry widows and then abandon them after taking the money.
But the government said its intention was to help single women - a term frequently used to refer to widows in Nepal, where the word is seen as derogatory.
"It is the right of single women to live as they want. But society does not treat them properly," said finance ministry spokesman Shankar Adhikari.