In Achham, nineteen percent of women give birth before 20Despite many campaigns and efforts, child marriage is still rampant in the district.
Naina Saud of Dhakari Rural Municipality is 19 and a mother of two. Saud, who eloped at the age of 15, is currently expecting her third child. She would be a mother of three before she even completes her teens. She has studied up to grade seven, she said. She also said that she is not aware of contraceptive measures. Like Saud, Sabitri Dholi of Mangalsen Municipality is 19 and is already a mother of three.
“Now my health condition is deteriorating by the day,” Dholi said.
Child marriage is rampant in Achham despite campaigns launched by the local units. Stakeholders say the penetration of internet and cell phones has exacerbated the practice.
“The internet and mobile phones have given rise to child marriage, as the social networks have provided a platform for teenagers to easily have a conversation, fall in love and elope,” said Shiva Thapa, principal of Durga Basic School.
While the number of child marriage is rising, the number of women visiting health posts for checkups is also on the rise, according to the District Health Office in Achham.
According to the Office’s data, a total of 7,315 pregnant women in the district visited health posts for checkups last year. Of them, 1,406 women were below the age of 20. The number has been steady since the fiscal year 2014/15, when out of 7,701 women visiting health posts, 1,415 were below the age of 20. Out of the total pregnancies, nineteen percent of women were underage, and the figure remains the same now.
Gyanu Majhi, a senior auxiliary nurse midwife at the district health office, said that many women who come for checkups do not reveal their true age. “Many women who married off as a child refuse to reveal their age, so the real number might be higher than what is recorded,” she said.
Majhi also said that those women who marry off at a young age show various health complications. “First, they have complications in giving birth, and after delivery, the chances of infections and diseases are higher than for mature postpartum mothers,” Majhi said. “The condition has worsened with a lack of skilled health professionals and equipment.”
According to the recently amended civil code, the minimum age for marriage in Nepal, for both women and men, is 20. Though child marriage was made illegal in Nepal in 1963, the practice is still rampant in remote villages across the country. According to a UNICEF data, Nepal has the third-highest rate of child marriage in Asia. In Achham, there is no record of the number of child marriages.