Nepal has made important steps over the past few years to promote gender equality, but the country still has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. 37% of Nepalese girls are married before the age of 18.
The 2015 earthquakes devastated the country and left girls and women in an increasingly vulnerable position, leading to fears that child marriage rates may increase over the next year.
Nepal is a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), which adopted a regional action plan to end child marriage. The regional action plan is to be implemented in 2015 – 2018. Find out more.
Poverty is both a cause and consequence of child marriage in Nepal. Girls from the wealthiest families marry 2 years later than those from the poorest, who are more likely to be seen as an economic burden, drop out of school and earn little money.
Food insecurity plays a key role too. Nepalese families that do not have enough food to eat are more likely to marry their daughters at a young age to ensure their security and decrease the financial burden. One study shows that 91% of people who were food secure married over the age of 19.
Dowry is also common practice in many communities and is particularly strong in the Terai region, with parents marrying their daughters off at a young age to avoid a higher dowry price.
CARE have highlighted that trafficking, whereby criminals prey on orphaned children and parents, is part of the reason for the rise in child marriage rates after the 2015 earthquakes.
The legal age of marriage is 20 for both men and women, according to the Nepalese Country Code.
The law states that punishment for child marriage is imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of up to 10,000 rupees (£102).
There has been a great deal of progress in Nepal over the past 3 years with a clear government commitment to ending child marriage and civil society cooperation.
The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare has finalised Nepal’s first national strategy on child marriage with support from UNICEF Nepal and Girls Not Brides Nepal, among others.
However, the post-earthquake and post-fuel crisis environment has meant progress is slow and the national strategy, as well as the development of a national implementation plan, has been delayed.
Nepal is one of 12 countries selected to be part of UNFPA and UNICEF’s Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage.
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.
28th Jul 2016
Fact sheets (Fiches info)
Girls Not Brides materials