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Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
International Ranking*


* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

Photo credit: Jane Mingay | Girls Not Brides

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
International Ranking*


* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

40% of Nepalese girls are married before their 18th birthday and 7% are married before the age of 15.

Median ages for first marriage are lowest in Provinces 2, 5 and 6.

According to UNICEF, Nepal has the 17th highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world and the 17th highest absolute number of child brides – 587,000.

A 2017 World Bank study estimates that ending child marriage in Nepal could see a 12.7% rise in earnings and productivity.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys. In Nepal, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Poverty: Marriage is seen to reduce the economic “burden” of girls on their families. The payment of dowry by a bride’s family to a husband’s family remains widespread despite being illegal. This is particularly excessive in the southern Terai plains where parents marry their daughters off at a young age to avoid higher prices. Girls living in the poorest households are more likely to marry than those living in the richest households.
  • Humanitarian context: CARE has reported that the 2015 earthquake led to a dramatic rise in child marriages and trafficking, as criminals targeted orphaned children and some families tried to protect their daughters by marrying them off.
  • Family practices: Most child marriages in Nepal are arranged, and sometimes forced, by family members. In 2016, Human Rights Watch found that girls in some areas were being married off as young as 18 months of age.
  • Traditional customs: In some communities, family members believe they will go to heaven if they marry off girls before menstruation. Shame surrounding pre-marital sex, and a lack of access to information about sexuality and contraception, encourages some girls to marry early.
  • Self-initiated marriage: An increasing number of girls in Nepal are marrying spouses of their own choosing. These are known as “love marriages” and are sometimes used to escape abusive circumstances, forced marriage or allow young people to have sex within the socially sanctioned institution of marriage (rather than outside of marriage).
  • Violence against girls: A 2014 study found that one in three married girls in Nepal has been subjected to sexual violence by their husbands. Although there is no information on the extent to which this drives child marriage, it likely affects a girl’s power within a marriage and her ability to escape.

What has this country committed to?

Nepal has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The government did not provide an update on progress towards this target during its Voluntary National Review at the 2017 High Level Political Forum.

Nepal co-sponsored the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage.

Nepal ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1991, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

Nepal is a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, a multi-donor, multi-stakeholder programme working across 12 countries over four years.

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 from 2015-2018.

Representatives of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including Nepal, asserted the Kathmandu Call to Action to End Child Marriage in Asia in 2014. As part of its commitment, Nepal will ensure access to legal remedies for child brides and establish a uniform minimum legal age of marriage of 18.

During its 2015 Universal Periodic Review, Nepal noted that several recommendations related to combatting early and forced marriage were already being implemented, including awareness-raising with families.

At the 2014 Girl Summit, the government signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

Following delays due to the 2015 earthquake, the government launched its National Strategy to End Child Marriage in 2016, with support from UNICEF and Girls Not Brides Nepal. The strategy aims to end child marriage by 2030, with particular focus on the most-affected districts. It has six components:

  • Empower girls (including economic empowerment)
  • Provide quality education for girls
  • Engage men and boys
  • Mobilise families and communities to change social norms
  • Strengthen and provide services
  • Implement laws and policies.

The government has also developed a fully costed National Action Plan for the strategy, but implementation has been delayed due to ongoing national and provincial elections, as the country undergoes a full decentralisation process following the creation of its new 2015 Constitution.

The government organised its own Girl Summit in Kathmandu in 2016 to reaffirm its commitment to ending child marriage by 2030 and another around International Day of the Girl in 2018.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Marriage Registration Act the minimum legal age of marriage in Nepal is 20 years for girls and boys. They are able to marry at 18 years with parental consent.


Department for International Development, Nepal Girl Summit, [website], 2016, (accessed May 2018)

Girl Summit 2014, The Girl Summit Charter on Ending FGM and Child, Early and Forced Marriage, [website], 2015, (accessed February 2018)

Global Citizen, Nepal Earthquake is Increasing Child Marriages, [website], 2015, (accessed February 2018)

Human Rights Watch, Our Time to Sing and Play: Child Marriage in Nepal, 2016, (accessed February 2018)

Ministry of Health, Nepal, New ERA, and ICF, Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2016, 2017,
(accessed May 2018)

Population Council, Costs of Marriage – Marriage Transactions in the Developing World, 2011, (accessed February 2018)

Population Council, Poverty, Marriage Timing and Transitions to Adulthood in Nepal: A Longitudinal Analysis Using the Nepal Living Standards Survey, 2010, (accessed February 2018)

UNICEF-UNFPA, Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, 2017, (accessed February 2018)

UNICEF Nepal and Population Council, Adolescent Development and Participation Baseline Study, 2014, (accessed February 2018)

UNICEF South Asia and UNDP Asia and the Pacific Regional Office, Ending Child Marriage in Nepal, [undated], (accessed February 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Nepal, 2015, p.18, (accessed February 2018)

World Bank and International Center for Research on Women, Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Report, 2017,  (accessed February 2018)

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

National Partnership in Nepal

Girls Not Brides Nepal is the official Girls Not Brides National Partnership in Nepal.

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