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Child marriage forces children out of school

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March 22, 2017

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Chhatra Karki

16 barsha mai 2 bachha ki aama

A 16 years girl from Jumla who has two children . Picture by DB Budha.

The Jumla district lies 820 kilometers  northwest of Kathmandu. Even though the district is connected with road network, it lags far behind on human development and social awareness. One of the major social stigmas of this place is child marriage, which is forcing  them to drop out from the school quite early

Not only in Jumla, the practice of child marriage is deep rooted in Mugu, Humla, Kalikot and Dolpa districts of Karnali zone. These are among the most backward districts of Nepal, appearing toward the bottom end of economic and social development indices.

Nirmaya Kathayat of Dillichaur-4, Jumla got married 5 years ago at the age of 13. She got married while she was studying in class 6. After marriage, going to school was not possible and she dropped out. Now at the age of 18 she is a mother of two sons – the elder is three years old and the younger is one and half. In such situation, it has been difficult for her family to meet the needs because of their poor economic condition. On the other hand, her daily routine keeps her busy in household chores and agricultural labor.

Nirmaya regrets that she wasn’t able to continue her studies because she had to marry early. Despite her protest and her plea to let her continue with the studies, she was forced to marry. She says, “Ultimately I was powerless in front of my family”.

“I had to go through many health complications too, after the marriage,” she added.

She laments that marriage is a social vile imposed upon the children. Nirmaya is just a representational character, most children in Dillichaur get married before reaching 16. Unfortunately, the tradition of child marriage is common in many of the remote villages in Nepal.

Daughters are discriminated when it comes to school admission in rural areas with poor awareness level.

“The villagers have a mindset of enrolling only sons in the school”, opines Mr. Abhayaraj Regmi, Secretary of Dillichaur VDC. He said that the villagers think it is useless to send girls to the school as they are to be sent to others’ home after marriage. He further explained that they arrange the early marriage of the girls whom they sent to the school. He reflected his experience that most of the school girls get married before they reach 6th standard.

Krishna Prasad Ghimire, a Kathmandu-returned secondary level teacher has similar experience. Recollecting his decade-long teaching practice in Patimara, Tirkhu, Gothichaur, Tamti and Malikabota VDCs of Jumla district, he reports that the child marriage has become a serious problem in entire Karnali region. It has impacted the education status of women of the entire region.

“When I used to teach in Patmara High School a year ago, there used to be a negligible presence of girls in class 10. Ninety percentof the students were boys. . Such situation is an outcome of drop out of girls because of child marriage”.

Government of Nepal has provisioned a law restricting the marriage of children under 18, however it is seen that the law is not enforced properly. Ghimire opines that it is hard to enforce the law without raising awareness in the community.

Jumla lags far behind other districts in terms of socio-economic and human development, despite the fact that it is the Zonal headquarters of Karnali. According to the population census of 2011, the population of children is 45,000 out of 108,921 total population of Jumla district. The literacy rate of Jumla is 54.7% whereas male literacy is 68.2% and female literacy is 40.8%.

Shree Ram Adhikari, the acting Chief of District of Human Rights Commission says that depriving the children from studies is a violation of human rights. He says, “It is impossible to end child marriage without initiating social awareness campaigns in each village, for which it is indispensable to update both the parents and the children”.

The issue of child marriage is becoming critical in Nepal. According to Central Department of Statistics, 1.1% girls get married in between 10-14, 8.8% girls get married in between 15-16 and 30% girls get married in between 16-18 years of age in Nepal. The eligible age of both girl and boy is 18 in accordance with the law.

In 2015, Human Rights Watch had conducted study on condition of girls married in early age in 14 districts out of 75 districts. Among them some never went to school and got married and most had dropped out and got married. As quoted in the report of Human Rights Watch, the continuation of child marriage is due to poverty, social pressure and superstition about virginity and puberty.

In Nepal a legal provision restricting child marriage was introduced in 1963 AD. But it hasn’t been enforced in practice. Child marriage remains a major problem in districts like Jumla, Kalikot, Makwanpur, Rautahat, Surkhet, Baitadi.

Although Nepal Government expressed its commitment during “Girl Summit” in 2013 in London to end child marriage in the country by 2020 AD, there hasn’t been much progress except for some sluggish moves. Government has not been able to prepare a national policy to end child marriage and a supporting action plan lingers in uncertainty. Narayan Prasad Kafle, Joint Secretary and Spokesperson of Women, Children and Social Welfare Ministry said  the Government is working toward making a strategy for abolition of child marriage and it will be made public after a short period. However, as with most government pledges, one can only wait and hope that it will happen.

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