Religious leaders, priests and faith healers mobilised to end child marriage in KalikotAlthough Nepal abolished child marriage in 1963, the practice is still rampant, especially in rural parts of the country.
With an aim to end the deeply rooted practice of child marriage, some local units of Kalikot district have launched a campaign by mobilising religious leaders, astrologers and faith healers.
The religious leaders and faith healers of Tilgufa Municipality and Shuvakalika Rural Municipality have been active now to curb the practice along with the people’s representatives, police and various social organisations working in the area. Keeping in view that the child marriage causes negative impacts on the children’s health, nutrition, education and overall development, religious leaders and faith healers have expressed their commitment to fight against the ill practice.
In an initiation of several organisations working in the district against child marriage, a conference was organised last month in Sukatiya, the administrative centre of Shuvakalika Rural Municipality. The event saw the presence of around 300 religious leaders, priests, astrologers and faith healers. They expressed their commitments to stand against child marriage and launch campaign against the practice.
“We might have made mistakes knowingly or unknowingly in the past. We now know the negative impacts of child marriage on the children,” said Sire Adhikari, a religious leader from Bharta in Shuvakalika-3. “We won’t involve in any child marriage and also encourage people to tie the nuptial knots after attaining the nubile age.” Stating that the child marriage does nothing good to an individual and society, Adhikari expressed his commitment for an active involvement in anti-child marriage campaign.
Although Nepal abolished child marriage in 1963, the practice is still rampant, especially in rural parts of the country. According to the Civil Code, the minimum age for marriage for both women and men in Nepal is 20. But child marriages are still unchecked in remote areas of Kalikot, a remote hill district of Karnali Province.
In rural areas like Kalikot, religious leaders and astrologers are consulted for the weddings which are traditionally performed by the priests. The local units have decided to mobilise the religious leaders, astrologers and faith healers realising that their roles are instrumental to make anti-child marriage drive a success.
Tilgufa Municipality and Shuvakalika Rural Municipality started honouring religious leaders, astrologers and faith healers for their effective roles in controlling child marriage. “The incidents of child marriage have decreased sharply after religious leaders, astrologers, faith healers, teachers and students have been involved in ending the practice,” said Gobinda Prasad Acharya, the chairman of Shuvakalika Rural Municipality. According to him, the wards 4 and 5 of Shuvakalika were declared child marriage free wards a few weeks ago.
According to Acharya, the religious leaders, priests, astrologers and faith healers expressed their commitment to not allow for marriage before 20 years of age, urge people to stand against child marriage and inform the authorities concerned of legal action to those encouraging the practice.
The mobilisation of religious leaders, priests, astrologers and faith healers in controlling child marriage has paid off in Tilagufa Municipality as well. “The rate of child marriage was around 52 percent in our municipality five years ago,” said Shankar Prasad Upadhyay, the mayor of Tulagufa Municipality. “It has reduced to 10 percent now due to the effective involvement of religious leaders, priests, astrologers, faith healers and other stakeholders.”
Child marriage is still a serious social problem in Kalikot despite the efforts of various organisations working against it. According to a recent study report conducted by Save the Children, the child marriage rate is around 34 percent in the district.
The District Police Office has also launched awareness campaign to stop child marriage. According to Police Inspector Yagyaraj Joshi, the district police organised awareness programme in 52 schools over the past one year to end child marriage. “Police stopped as many as 109 scheduled marriages of the underage couple and proceeded four cases in the past one year,” he said.