KATHMANDU, July 5: Although child marriage is illegal in Nepal, it is still practiced in various parts of the country. Kapilvastu and Rupandehi, two tarai districts, have the highest rate of child marriage among all the districts in the country.
An estimated 15 million girls under 18 are married globally every year. Nepal ranks 20th in child marriage around the world, according to a recently published Community Participatory Analysis (CPA) report of CARE Nepal, a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty.
Although the legal age for marriage for men and women is 20, 41 percent of women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18, the report stated. Likewise, 21 percent of girls were married at the age 15-19.
The report attributed gender inequality, economic constraints, lack of education, poverty and traditional social norms as the main reasons for child marriage.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an intergovernmental set of global goals and targets for sustainable developments adopted by United Nations, reflects good health and well being; quality education; and gender equality as three of the important goals among the designated 17 goals to be met by 2030.
Goal 5 of the SDGs aims at achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. One of the targets of Goal 5 is to "Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation."
“It isn't that parent's aren't aware about the issue, parent actually are. But it is the community in which they live that provokes them to commit such an illegal act,” said Dr. Popular Gentle, program director of CARE Nepal.
According to him, the case of child marriage has been increasing at a faster rate in hills but slowly in tarai areas due to socio structure. “Dowry is a practice that encourages child marriage amongst the poor and very poor population especially in tarai region,” he said.
The research stated that both male and female children bear the consequences of child marriage. While girls are forced to drop out of school at a very young age, boys have to start finding jobs to sustain their family and shoulder additional responsibilities.
The government has been waging a decisive battle against child marriage.
Lora Wuennenberg, country director for Care Nepal, emphasized on the change being possible only if individuals are motivated to make changes regarding the issue.
She emphasized on expanding and promoting access to both formal and non-formal education and training opportunities to reduce child marriage.