KATHMANDU, Aug 8: A year after the civil code increased the minimum age for marriage to 20 years from 18, some lawmakers have sought a revision of the marriageable age saying it has caused problems for Indian women marrying Nepali men especially in the tarai.
Lawmakers from both the ruling and the opposition parties during the parliamentary meeting on Wednesday asked Minister for Women and Children Thamamaya Thapa whether the government has any plan to resolve the problem.
Prem Suwal of Nepal Workers Peasants Party (NWPP) had asked Minister Thapa about government’s plans, if any, to control a growing practice among Nepali citizens under the age of 20 of visiting India to get married to avoid legal action in Nepal. The minimum marriageable age for girls in India is 18 years.
The Criminal Code endorsed by the parliament two years ago and enforced last year had increased the minimum marriage age for girls to 20 years from 18. Section 173 of the law has stated that an underage marriage shall be scrapped and all those attending such marriage would face up to three years jail and a penalty of Rs 30,000 or both.
“We have encouraged crime by failing to implement the law. I urge the minister if the government has any plan to review the marriageable age, which appears impractical in our society,” said ruling Nepal Communist party (NCP) lawmaker Ram Kumari Jhakri.
Former Minister of State for Home Affairs Devendra Raj Kandel also urged the minister to review the law to resolve the problems faced by people especially in the tarai. “Should we tell an 18-year-old Indian bride marrying a Nepali man not to cross over to Nepal until she turns 20?” said Kandel.
In response Minister Thapa said that the ministry has been carrying out the awareness campaign to control child marriage based on the existing marriageable age. “Marrying after 20 is practical from the perspective of health and mental development of girls,” said Minister Thapa. “We can still discuss about ways to effectively implement the law or whether it needs a revision.”
During the question-answer session, Suwal of NWPP also asked the minister about government’s initiatives to control forced marriage of girls (Taani Vivaha). In response the minister said that such practice will gradually end over time.
“We still see such practice continuing in some parts of the country. But it will end gradually. We should continuously work to create awareness to end such practices,” she said.
Earlier, Uma Regmi of Nepali Congress asked the minister about ministry’s initiatives for ensuring at least one-third representation of women in all state organs including the cabinet.