Nepal ranks 10th in prevalence of child marriage among boys: UN reportTo end child marriage, stakeholders should focus on ending child marriage of both sexes, experts say
The first ever in-depth analysis of child grooms among 82 countries by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has ranked Nepal as one of the top 10 countries where there is a high prevalence of child marriage among boys.
The study shows that one in ten men aged between 20 and 24 were married as children in Nepal.
Issuing a press release on Friday, UNICEF also revealed that Nepal is the only country in South Asia with a significant prevalence of child marriage among both boys and girls.
“In many countries, mostly the young girls are married to older boys but in the context of Nepal young girls are mostly married to young boys,” Pragya Shah Karki, child protection specialist at UNICEF Nepal, told the Post. “The age difference between young girls and young boys is very less in Nepal.”
According to UNICEF, while there have been extensive studies among prevalence, causes, and impact of child marriage among girls, there is only little research on child marriage among boys.
“Girls face more consequences over their health and other factors than boys in cases of child marriage due to which studies have been more focused over child marriage among girls,” said Karki.
Experts who have worked in the field of child marriage in Nepal said the early marriage decision is either taken by the parents in cases of the arranged marriages or the children themselves in case of love marriages.
According to experts, no matter who takes the decision of an early marriage, the ones who face its consequences are always the brides and grooms, and because Nepali societies still follow patriarchal norms, boys get more responsibilities after the marriage.
“Child grooms are forced to take on adult responsibilities for which they may not be ready. Early marriage brings early fatherhood, and with it added pressure to provide for a family, cutting short education and job opportunities,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in the press release.
And although this study focused on child marriage among boys, it also showed that the cases of child marriage is far higher in girls. One in 30 young men aged 20 to 24 is married before turning 18 in comparison to one in five young women.
Nepal had outlawed child marriage in 1963. Recently, the age limit for boys and girls to get married has been set to 20.
According to the Nepal Demographic Health Survey 2016, 13 percent of women aged 25-49 were married by age 15 while only three percent of men married that young.
During the Nepal Girl Summit dedicated to child marriage on 2016, which was inaugurated by President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Britain’s Prince Harry, the government had expressed its commitment to end child marriage by 2030.
The Ministry for Women, Children and Senior Citizen has also brought a new working procedure in order to organise awareness campaigns against child marriage on December 2018.
The procedure includes organising awareness programmes regarding the prevailing social, cultural and traditional norms across the country with the participation of the general public in the local levels.
“With modernisation, the reasons behind child marriage have also changed. Many educated children are found to have been marrying underage. The ministry is conducting a study on the reasons behind the early marriage,” Tham Maya Thapa, minister for women, children and senior citizen, told the Post.
“Once the study is completed and a report arrives, we will plan new approaches by forming a national policy. We are doing our best to end child marriage by 2030,” said Thapa.
According to the ministry, the local governments have also been directed to inspect the programme’s impact over the public.
The local level should provide a monthly, quarterly, mid-year and a year report to the provincial government. The provincial government should then provide a mid-year and year report to the ministry.
UNICEF estimates that the total number of child brides and child grooms worldwide is around 765 million.
“Ending child marriage requires support for multiple stakeholders in multiple sectors,” said Karki. “Unless proper coordination is made between concerned stakeholders, ending child marriage is difficult and can take more time.”