Child marriage prevalent among Chepangs: StudyJyotimaya Chepang of Dokatar in Kailash Rural Municipality-7 in Makwanpur district is only 29 but has already given birth to nine children. Out of the nine, only seven children are alive.
Jyotimaya Chepang of Dokatar in Kailash Rural Municipality-7 in Makwanpur district is only 29 but has already given birth to nine children. Out of the nine, only seven children are alive.
“My parents forced me to get married at the age of 13 and I started giving birth at 14,” said Jyotimaya. Her husband does not like to use contraceptives, she added. Four years earlier, health workers had tried to persuade Jyotimaya’s husband to undergo a vasectomy operation as a means of family planning. But he refused, as he believes that going through an operation would render him weak and he wouldn’t be able to provide for his family. Both Jyotimaya and her husband lack awareness on family planning and contraceptives, hence, they keep on giving birth every year.
This is not only the case of Jyotimaya but several other Chepang families. Kanchhimaya Chepang, 30, of Tamlang in Kailash Rural Municipality is a mother of eight and is expecting her ninth child. Like Jyotimaya, she too got married at a young age.
According to a study conducted by the District Public Health Office three years ago, around 87 percent of Chepang women in Kailash Rural Municipality got married at the age of 12-15. Most of the girls started giving birth from the age of 13, and the children born were mostly underweight, study said.
As to why the Chepangs give birth to so many children, Jamuna Gurung, a health worker, said that women hardly use contraceptives in remote Chepang villages due to poverty and a lack of awareness on reproductive health. The Chepangs have a misconception on the use of contraceptives, she added, which is why there is a low participation of chepangs in family planning health camps conducted by the health workers.
Though Nepal outlawed child marriage in 1963, the practice is still rampant in most of the rural areas, with rights groups blaming the government for failing to take sufficient steps to end the practice.
Dr Kamal Duwadi of Hetauda Hospital said women and children in Chepang community are vulnerable due to the practice of child marriage, pregnancy-related complications, malnutrition, lack of sanitation, poverty, illiteracy and food insecurity among others. Girls who marry young suffer from pregnancy-related complications, uterine prolapse, high infant and maternal mortality rate, malnutrition of mother and child as well as psychological problems, including depression, violent marital relations and suicides, health experts say. The average life expectancy for Chepang women is 45 to 50 years, reports say.