Child marriages burden young Nepalis

51 per cent of Nepalese marry as children, with families often citing poverty as the reason. Hanna Ingber writes in the Global Post about her encounter with 16-year old Suntali, married when she was 13 or 14.

DOLAKHA, Nepal — Suntali Thami grew up in a tiny village here in this remote district set in the foothills of the Himalayas. Her family, destitute farmers, did not have the money to send her to school. So when she was a young girl, about the age of 13, they sent her down to the capital, Kathmandu, to earn money washing dishes at a hotel. Alone in the big city, Suntali’s life took a turn for the worse.

Within a few months, the much older hotel manager took a liking to the pretty young girl with a sweet smile and decided to marry her. Suntali did not want to marry him, she says, but she felt she had no option as it appeared to be the man’s choice.

As she talks, she sits on a straw mat outside her in-laws’ home as her baby named Durga sleeps under a blanket nearby and another baby, her niece Sita, with a head of thick, disheveled black hair, begins to cry. Suntali runs her hand through Sita’s hair as flies land around the infant’s eyes.

Suntali is among the 51 percent of Nepalese who marry as children, according to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The practice carries with it devastating consequences for young girls’ health and wellbeing, child advocates say, and yet the social, economic and cultural pressures associated with the tradition make it difficult to end. Officially, it is against the law to marry under the age of 20, but these laws go ignored, particularly in remote areas.

The child marriage rate is dropping in Nepal, yet the practice is still common among poor, rural families.

Read the full article and find photos on the Global Post website.