Families in Nepal are not only patrilocal and patrilineal but deeply patriarchal where property rights, lineage and social power resides within male member of the family. Social and legal institutions of Nepal is deeply influenced by patriarchal Hindu ideology where women are portrayed as subservient being, playing secondary role to the men in their families. Within Hinduism, woman existence is defined, revolves and is always under the male guardianship as a daughter, wife and mother of a son. Using this narrative in Hinduism, many sociologists have portrayed the women in patriarchal Hindu families as docile and helpless actors where her position is under constant threat.

However, this interpretation limits our understanding not only of the nature of patriarchy currently in play but also presents a very narrow understanding of women’s agency which is dominated by liberal notion of freedom (Mahmood, 2005, 2009).  This has resulted in the denial of lived experience of large number of women who are living under patriarchal family structure.

The paper argues that women living under patriarchal family structure are not meek or docile beings but are strategic actors who evaluate the power dynamics within the family and develop strategies to secure or increase their power within the families. The paper aims to contribute in expanding our understanding of women agency and also explores the question that by “bargaining with patriarchy” (Kandiyoti, 1988), if the women are actually able to challenge the core of patriarchal belief or their individual strategic move for power is only contributing in continuation of unequal gender categories (Derbe, 1994) within the families.  

This paper is based on ethnographic research with married women belonging to middle class hindu families from Kathmandu.