Child marriage by 15
Child marriage by 18
|Are there Girls Not Brides members?||35|
|Does this country have a national strategy or plan?||Yes|
|Is there a Girls Not Brides National Partnership or coalition?||Yes|
|Age of marriage without consent or exceptions taken into account||Legal age of marriage - 18 years, no exceptions|
What's the prevalence rate?
9% of Nepalese boys are married before the age of 18.
The highest rates of child marriage for women and girls between the ages of 20 – 24 who were first married before age 18 are found in Province 2 (53%), Karnali Province (48%), Sudoorpashchim Province (45%), Gandaki Province (41%) and Lumbini Province (40%).
The highest rates of child marriage for men and boys between the ages of 20 – 24 who were first married before age 18 are found in Karnali Province (25%), Sudoorpashchim Province (21%), Province 2 (18%), Lumbini Province (16%) Gandaki Province and Province 1 (10%).
Women and men living in rural areas aged 20-49 are more likely to be married before the age of 18 (17% and 43% respectively) than women and men within the same age range living in urban areas (12% and 37%).
A 2017 World Bank/ICRW study estimates that ending child marriage in Nepal could see a 12.7% rise in earnings and productivity for Nepali women who married early.
What drives child marriage in Nepal?
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:
Level of education: In Nepal, women and men with no or basic education are more likely to be married before the age of 18 than those with secondary or higher education. For women and men age 20 – 49 years who were first married before the age of 18, 53% of women and 22% of men had no education, 48% of women and 19% of men had basic education and 4% of women and 3% of men had higher education.
Poverty: Marriage is seen as a way to reduce the economic “burden” of girls on their families, especially during food insecurity. Girls living in the poorest households are more likely to marry than those living in the richest households. The payment of dowry by a bride’s family to the husband’s family remains widespread despite being illegal. Women between the ages of 20 – 49 from the richest households were less likely to be married before the age of 18 (25% compared to women from the second (44%) and poorest (43%) households. However, the prevalence of child marriage among men within the same age range increases as household wealth decreases. Men from the poorest households were three times more likely to be married before the age of 18 (20%) than from the richest household (6%).
Adolescent pregnancy: Between 2015 – 2020, for women and girls between the ages of 15 – 19, the adolescent birth rate in Nepal was 63%. For married women between the ages of 20 – 24, 14% have had a live birth before the age of 18. For married men between the ages of 20 – 24, 3% had fathered a live before the age of 18.
Harmful 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. In some communities, family members believe they will go to heaven if they marry off girls before menstruation. There is also a persistent cultural value attached to the preservation of “girls’ purity” and shame surrounding sex outside marriage. All of this encourages girls being married off early.
Cultural norms: The practice of chhaupadi (isolating menstruating women and girls, who have to sleep in huts) is criminalised but remains widespread in some parts of Nepal. This practice makes girls more vulnerable to sexual violence and keeps them out of school, which in turn puts girls at higher risk of being married off.
Self-initiated marriage:An increasing number of girls and boys in Nepal are marrying spouses of their own choosing. These are known as “love marriages” and are sometimes used to escape abusive circumstances at home or arranged marriage. Adolescents may also elope because sex is not acceptable outside marriage. In addition, the lack of access to information about sexuality and contraception, together with stigma, may rush girls to get married if they become pregnant.
Caste system:Childrenof socially marginalised dalit communities are at higher risk of being married off because of discrimination and limited access to resources.
COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on some of the poorest households and has exacerbated the vulnerability of children. The pandemic exposed vulnerable families to loss of financial income pushing them further into poverty and social exclusion. The pandemic has left 568,000 children in need, further exposing the vulnerability of young girls making them more susceptible to abuse and child marriage. School closures affected 8.1 million students (49% girls) which means that girls lack the agency to negotiate with their parents about early marriage and girls do not have access to reporting mechanisms or safe spaces.
Child trafficking: 2020 UNICEF-UNFPA reports indicate that the rising number of families living in poverty has pushed families into disguising child trafficking as child marriage in order to earn money. Families are exchanging their daughters for money or small “gifts” in order to better their economic situations.
Humanitarian settings can encompass a wide range of situations before, during, and after natural disasters, conflicts, and epidemics. They exacerbate poverty, insecurity, and lack of access to services such as education, factors which all drive child marriage. Often in times of crisis, families see child marriage as a way to cope with greater economic hardship and to protect girls from increased violence.
Nepal is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world due to its location and variable climatic conditions. As of April 2021, there are 11.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance or which 3.3 million are children and 281,500 pregnant women.
Natural disasters: The 2015 earthquake in Nepal killed nearly 9,000 people and left more than 8 million affect with 2.8 million people displace. This led to a dramatic rise in child marriages and trafficking, specifically in the Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha districts as criminals targeted orphaned children and some families tried to protect their daughters by marrying them off. For women aged 20 – 24 in Sindhupalchowk, 9% were married before the age of 18 and 3% of men. In the district of Dolakha, for women aged 20 – 24, 7% were married before the age of 18 and 5% of men. Prior to the earthquake, the rates of child marriage within these districts were very low.
What international, regional and national commitments has Nepal made?
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. The government submitted a 2020 Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum in which the government reiterated its commitment to ending child marriage and all forms of violence against women.
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.
In 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concerns about the prevalence of child marriage in Nepal and the contradictions in the legislation regarding child marriage. The Committee also recommended Nepal to assess the impact of the 2015 earthquake on girls’ vulnerability to child marriage.
In 2018, the CEDAW Committee expressed similar concerns about child marriage and urged Nepal to take measures to address this harmful practice.
During its 2020 Universal Periodic Review, Nepal noted that several policy, legislative and programmatic interventions have been put in place to eliminate child marriage, dowry, harmful practices and chhaupadi.
During its 2015 Universal Periodic Review, Nepal noted that several recommendationsrelated to combatting early and forced marriage were already being implemented, including awareness-raising with families.
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.
In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, Tham Maya Thapa, Minister for Women, Children and Senior Citizen, on behalf of the Government of Nepal committed to end all forms of violence against women and girls including child, early and forced marriage by 2030, by prioritisingthe enforcement of legislation and providing adequate financial resources for that purpose.
At the 2014 London Girl Summit, the government signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020.
What is the government doing to address child 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. In 2018, the Global Programme supported almost 7500 girls to stay in school and almost 100 health posts provided adolescent girl-friendly services.
A radio-led initiative known as Rupantaran(‘transformation’), under the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to End Child Marriage in Nepal was established to respond to the rising number of child marriages. The main delivery method is by using digital technology and local radio broadcasting stations to teach sessions on human rights violations such as child marriage, harmful practices, gender-based violence, caste-based violence and empowering girls. In 2020, the initiative was able to reach 40,000 listeners.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the UNCIEF-UNFPA Global Programme has reached 3, 533 girls and 20,049 girls through the Rupantaran program. The program has also conducted community dialogues mobilizing young men on ending child marriage, alternatives to child marriage and gender equality. Through these dialogues, reporting of child marriages increased and in 2020, 64 cases of child marriage were registered with the police, 443 potential cases (before the marriages took place) were reported through the child helpline and 350 cases of child marriage were identified.
Between 2020 - 2021, UNICEF Nepal Humanitarian Action for Children Appeal (HAC) has received $8.4 million USD to meet the needs of vulnerable women and children who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the monsoon flooding.
In November 2021, the Provincial Government of Lumbini Province and the Ministry of Law, Women, Children and Senior Citizens of Lumbini launched a strategy to end child marriage. This strategy aims to work with local governments and key stakeholders in Lumbini Province to educate and empower children and families on the importance of ending child marriage through skill-based training and community campaigns. The strategy also aims to conduct research on identifying the root causes of child marriage and relevant authorities involved in the prevention.
Since 2020, 6 provincial governments and 92 municipalities have committed to and developed action plans to end child marriage in Nepal and 51 municipalities have allocated a total of $100,000 USD towards the Rupantaran program.
The Government of Nepal launched a Chhaupadi free campaign, promoting dignified menstruation. This campaign was able to reach more than 8,500 Chhaupaid goths in two months. The government has established that December 8 will be the national day to observe ‘Dignified Menstruation.’
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 (NAP) for the strategy and a monitoring and evaluation framework, 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.
In 2018, Human Rights Watch warned that the implementation of the National Strategy remains stalled. But, the NAP has served a useful advocacy tool for integrating actions to respond to child marriage through sectoral programmes including the Multisectoral Nutrition Plan (MSNP), 2018–2022.
In 2018, a new Adolescent Health and Development Strategy was endorsed by the Ministry of Health and Population with ending child marriage as one of its key targets. The strategy’s monitoring and evaluation framework includes child marriage indicators in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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. As a result, several provinces and local governments have also designed their own schemes to end harmful practices including child marriage. While province level costed plans have also been developed, their implementation has been weak due to lack of funds.
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.
In 2018, it was enacted the Act Relating to Children, which specifically prohibits and criminalises the act of ‘fixing the marriage’ of a child, which relates to the practice of arranging the engagement of young children in some Nepali communities.
In this country we have a national partnership. Many Girls Not Brides member organisations have come together to accelerate progress to end child marriage in their countries by forming National Partnerships and coalitions. Below is an overview of what and where these networks are, what they do and how they work with Girls Not Brides.
Urgent Relief Efforts and Following the Earthquake in the Karnali Province in Nepal
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