Child marriage on rise, young mothers regret early marriage
September 23, 2019 07:30 AM NPT
By: MANJU UPRETI
Primary Health Center, Manthali, Ramechhap in this recent picture.
RAMECHHAP, Sept 23: Lata (name changed) was studying in the seventh grade when she got married. A resident of Likhutamakoshi Rural Municipality – 4 of northern Ramechhap, she gave birth to a baby boy next year. Now she is 20 and her son is three year old. Her husband left for Malaysia last year and ‘does not ring her that often’.
“I am 20 now and I have begun to realize that my decision to marry at the age of 16 was a blunder. At the time my parents had tried to persuade me against the marrying at the age and instead furthering my studies,” she said.
Lata wants to continue studies, but that is easy said than done now. Her son is too small to leave at home all alone. “My primary responsibility is to look after him. He needs me all the time,” she lamented.
According to Lata, she happened to marry early because almost everyone does the same in her village. Had she seen better examples, she would not follow the wrong path, she said.
“I seriously regret this early marriage. I saw everyone around eloping or getting married just at that age and I also did the same,” she remarked.
Lata’s neighbor Rama Panta (name changed) was also 15-year-old when she got married. Her husband is in Saudi Arabia for employment. Long distance relationship has not worked well for this couple either.
“I was at 5th grade when I got married. I then did not look back to school,” Rama said. “But now I feel that my future is going isn’t bright. Education is important,” she added.
Child marriage is still rampant in Ramechhap. And early motherhood is equally common. Among 673 women who came for pregnancy tests in Primary Health Center, Mathali during the last fiscal year, 112 were below 20 years of age.
“Girls as young as 14 come here for pregnancy test. It’s very worrisome, and child marriage is quite common here,” said Dr Ashok Khanal from the health center. “Child marriage not only brings their education to a halt but also seriously affects child and mother’s health,” he added.
Lata and Rama complain that their spine pains a lot and suffer mostly from cramps in lower abdomen. Despite getting medical attention, these problems have not subsided.
“I was fit and fine until I delivered the baby. Post delivery I could not get proper care, and doctor says my health issues are related to early motherhood,” said Lata.
Rama who has been taking food supplement as per doctor’s suggestion stated that her hemoglobin level is too low and ‘that can be very risky’ if she does not take care of herself. “But I have to work a lot even during illnesses. There is no one at home to support me,” she said.
The legal marriageable age in the country is 20. However, girls and boys in different parts of the country continue to get married before that age. While it was a sort of culture in the past, it is a result of love–affairs these days.
The society hardly tolerates close relationship between opposite sexes unless they are married. This, often, is the reason why school going children in the rural areas are opting to get married as soon as they fall in love.
“My family was not for my early marriage but they would not allow me to meet him. So, we thought we should rather get married,” says Lata. “Our friendship was not something they would love to see, and then we happened to tie the nuptial knot. Had they been tolerant, maybe we would get time to think about marriage,” she added.
Also according to Rama, the conservative mind of the people that believes that a girl and a boy cannot be friends forces young people to get married.
“Fearing society, girls and boys opt for marriage. That is not a good practice,” she said. “If the society tries to understand that the problem of young people, may be child marriage can be controlled,” she added.
Kamala Shrestha, a nurse at the health center stated that early marriage has become one of major reasons of frustration among young girls. Neither can they live happy with new family, nor do they find any escape from it, she noted.
“Early motherhood or marriage costs them their education, their carrier, everything. It damages their life,” Shrestha said.