Child Marriage – 37% of girls are under the age of 18 / Facts about Nepal

Today we would like to share some facts about the delicate topic of child marriage with you. According to information from Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Nepal and estimated 37% of girls marry before the age of 18 despite the fact that the minimum age to legally marry under Nepali law is 20 years (!!) of age. UNICEF data indicates that Nepal has the third highest rate of child marriage in Asia.

Why is that so? Child marriage in Nepal is driven by different factors, sadly key among them is gender discrimination and discriminatory social norms mean that girls are often seen as a “burden” to be unloaded as early as possible through marriage. Married girls often give birth to babies early, because they do not have access to information about birth control and no access to contraception. Sometimes because their in-laws and husbands pressured them to give birth as soon, and as frequently, as possible. Child marriage is more prevalent in lower “caste communities” (officially a caste system does not exist anymore) and rural villages in Nepal.

And yes its illegal in Nepal and has been since 1963. Its like with other topics as well: laws are in place but do not get exercised. The current law sets the minimum age of marriage at 20 for both men and women. Under the law, adults who marry children, family members and other adults who arrange marriages of children, and religious leaders who perform child marriages are all committing crimes and are subject to prosecution. Arranging a child marriage or marrying a child is punishable by imprisonment and fines, which vary depending on the age and gender of the child. These range from six months to three years in prison and a fine of 1,000 to 10,000 rupees if the case involves a girl under the age of ten.

At the July 2014 international “Girl Summit” in London, Nepal’s Minister of Women, Children, and Social Welfare pledged to strive to end child marriage by 2020. By the time the Nepal government held its own national “Girl Summit” in Kathmandu in March 2016, this goal had shifted to ending child marriage by 2030.

(author Madan Magar)

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