Child marriage remains serious problem in Nepal, says report

Nepal is not doing enough to end child marriage, with more than one in three girls married before they reach the age of 18. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Nepal is not doing enough to end child marriage, with more than one in three girls married before they reach the age of 18. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Child marriage remains a serious problem in Nepal, where 10 per cent of girls marry before they are 15, a human rights report has claimed.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said government indifference means it has not taken the concrete steps needed to achieve the goal of completely stopping the practice in Nepal, which has the third-highest rate of such marriages in Asia after Bangladesh and India.

Nepalese government officials, however, said the Himalayan nation has made significant progress in stopping child marriage and has new policies and laws to address the issue, including a new law that says both men and women have to be 20 before they can legally marry.

But child-rights groups say the earthquake that killed thousands and made millions homeless, plus the country’s ongoing political instability, is making the situation worse in one of the poorest nations in the world.

A report released by Human Rights Watch yesterday said the government has not done enough to end the practice of child marriage, adding there was little evidence of the government working effectively to try to prevent child marriage or mitigate the harm that married children experience.

The report, Our Time to Sing and Play, said that although child marriage has been illegal in Nepal since 1963, researchers found that “police rarely act to prevent child marriage or bring charges, and almost never do so unless a complaint is filed.

Government officials often officially register child marriages, even though child marriage is a crime.”

The report said a majority of the children who marry young were from Nepal’s Dalit or indigenous communities, reflecting the greater prevalence of child marriage in marginalised and lower-caste communities.

It said poverty, lack of access to education, child labor, social pressures, and dowry practices were among the factors driving child marriage.

The last survey by the government in 2011 found that 41 percent of girls married before the age of 18. According to Unicef 37 per cent of girls married before the age of 18 and 10 per cent were married before the age of 15.

It is rare for a girl to complain to the authorities even if they know their marriage is illegal, fearing that would get their parents in trouble. Violators can be jailed for three years.