(PRESS RELEASE) Lawyers, policymakers, reproductive health, women’s and child rights advocates gathered today in Kathmandu to discuss the illegal practice of child marriage, that is rampant in Nepal. The Center for Reproductive Rights together with the National Women Commission and the Forum for Law and Development led the discussion.
In Nepal, the legal age for marriage for men and women is 20 years of age, without parental consent, and 18 years of age with parental consent. Marriage under the legal minimum age is penalized with fines and imprisonment, yet the practice of child marriage in the country continues with impunity. According to the 2011 national census, approximately 75% of married women had been married before the age of 20 years and over 100,000 girls in Nepal had been given away in marriage before the age of 10.
Despite international and local laws clearly condemning child marriage, according to United Nations Population Fund it is projected that 130 million young girls in South Asia will be married against their will by 2030. Nepal, along with all governments in South Asia, has a legal obligation to prevent, investigate, punish and provide remedies for all acts of violence against women, including child marriage.
“The Supreme Court of Nepal has issued specific orders for enforcing current marriage laws, but the government has yet to take effective steps to end child marriage,” said Advocate Sabin Shrestha, Executive Director, Forum for Women, Law and Development.
During the panel, the Center for Reproductive Rights shared key findings from “Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity,” a report that details the failure of governments in South Asia to enact and enforce current laws that prohibit child marriage. The report also offers guidance on steps governments in the region can take to end child marriage in line with their human rights and constitutional legal obligations.
“Child marriage not only discriminates against women and girls in Nepal, it is a violation of their basic human rights, said Melissa Upreti, Regional Director for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Young brides are pressured to give birth soon after marriage and are susceptible to both domestic and sexual violence—escalating harms that have a profound negative impact on the health, education, employment and dignity of women and girls. The government of Nepal has an immediate obligation to stop child marriage.”
“The government needs to prioritize the implementation of laws prohibiting child marriage in Nepal, said Hon. Seikh Chand Tara, Chairperson, National Women Commission. “We have to guarantee that our women and young girls can exercise their constitutionally protected rights and end this discrimination against them in the name of marriage.”