Let Children be Children

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Nepal has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. According to recent statistics, 41% of Nepalese girls marry before their eighteenth birthday and 10% are married before they turn fifteen. Child marriage is particularly prevalent throughout the Terai region bordering India, as well as in the Far and Mid-Western regions. The 2015 earthquakes that devastated the country have left girls and women in an increasingly vulnerable position, leading to fears that child marriage rates may raise even further.

The consequences of child marriage are well documented. Young brides are vulnerable to pregnancy-related complications such as miscarriage, uterine prolapse, obstetric fistula, and infant and maternal mortality. They are at an increased risk of malnutrition, abuse, and mental health issues such as depression and suicide. Child brides also have a decreased chance of completing their education as they assume post-marriage domestic and household responsibilities.

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 over three years; 2015 – 2018. To carry out the SAIEVAC initiative, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare has finalized Nepal’s first national strategy on child marriage with support from UNICEF and Girls Not Brides Nepal. The strategy has a comprehensive approach that recognizes the complex drivers of child marriage (e.g. poverty, dowry system, food insecurity). The underlying foundation of the strategy is to empower girls and increase their value in Nepali society.

 While progress to end child marriage in Nepal has been made, more still needs to be done. The post-earthquake and post-fuel crisis environment has resulted in the full implementation of the national strategy being delayed. A comprehensive action plan with timeline needs to be developed by the Government of Nepal in order to ensure the continued reduction in child marriage in the country.

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7 Responses to “Let Children be Children”

  1. BreastfeedingChampion! Says:

    I have been reading so much about this lately. Child marriage is very sad. Many times children are forced into sexual situations with husbands that are much older than them. Sometimes these arrangements are incredibly sexually and physically abusive. Thank you for posting on such a heart breaking subject. The more visibility that this topic receives, the better we can tackle it.

  2. Umar J Says:

    Thank you for raising awareness about this important matter. I can definitely relate to this because it was a custom in my family back in the old days in India. I am sorry to hear that it still continues today. I believed that it happened because of three main reasons 1) there weren’t any emphasis on education unlike today. 2) it was just the custom of the society to give their daughters hand in marriage early on. 3), it was a way to build strong ties and relationships among families. I personally believe that the government emphasis on education would enlighten peoples’hearts and minds and would help eliminate child abuse to some extent. Does the government plan to take action by promoting education in Nepal and parts of India?

  3. mvessblog Says:

    The issue of child brides is very important, thank you for raising this topic. As your blog indicates, child brides are not only more likely to be uneducated, poor, have birth complications, suffer abuse, but the poverty begets poverty cycle continues to another generation. Nepalese women who marry as adults are twice as likely to have their children in a healthcare facility, beneficially impacting not only their own health and survival, but that of their child’s as well 1. Women who are educated are more likely to delay marriage. Unicef’s “End Child Marriage “ has the goal of averting 750,000 child marriages by 2017. Southeast Asia is a major focus since it has the highest incidence of child marriage with 45% of girls marrying before age 18. A multi-pronged approach is being used, including both social media and traditional media (radio). Also, educational programs through clubs and schools is targeting young boys and girls to teach the benefits of waiting to marry. Educating girls has been proven repeatedly to be one of the keys to delaying marriage, increasing the age at first pregnancy, reducing poverty, improving nutrition of both the mother and the infant, and reducing stunting. It will be important for Nepal to follow through with full implementation of the national strategy on child marriage to reap these benefits for its future generations.

    1 2015 PROGRESS REPORT, Unicef 2015. Six Headline Results for Children in South Asia: End Child Marriage. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/rosa/4-PR-childmarriage.pdf

  4. lwang108 Says:

    Many thanks for you to choose this topic. It’s sad news for us to know there are so many young girls suffer from such kind of situation, however, we have to broadcast such kind of news to arouse more supports and actions to prevent for them.
    In addition, I’m so hopeful to see there is already the policy regulation to prevent child marriage, which is the most important step in my opinion. Although it’s long way to implement the policy in community, we still need more detail interventions to help young girls, to return their rights for growing up healthily and safely.

  5. Umar J Says:

    I also learned that it is the poverty that caused parents to give their daughters hand in marriage when they are very young.
    I found this interesting article:

    http://www.childlineindia.org.in/child-marriage-india.htm

  6. ec25site Says:

    Thank you for your post. It is sad to see such a high rate of child marriage. As noted in the blog and comments, low education level among women in Nepal is one of the factors that may force women to marry early. In addition, economic burden, gender discrimination, and social norm can also constitute child marriage. (1) According to the data provided by UNICEF, 47 countries showed that the median age for girls at their first marriage has been gradually increasing. However, this increase in marriage age among girls is only for girls whose families have higher incomes. This shows that financial burden can be one of the major reasons for child marriage. Often times, low-income families could not afford to allow their daughters to go to school. Many would pressure their young daughters to marry at their early ages to alleviate their financial burden. (1) Hence, the government should have educational programs and subsidies specifically for girls in low-income families to encourage these girls to receive higher education. Such policies not only reduce child marriage but also offer these girls to obtain the necessary knowledge, experience, and skills to find jobs, ultimately improving the workforce and economy of the country as a whole.

    Source:
    1. http://www.unicef.org/protection/57929_58008.html

  7. harsh86raj Says:

    Thank you for the post. This is a very important issue which relates to so many other issues like women education, empowerment, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, malnutrition both among young girls and children born to them among others.

    It brings back the memories of a interesting conversation I had while working in a district in Uttar Pradesh which borders with Nepal. I was finishing up with examining a child with suspected polio. People in the village came to know that I am a physician and gathered around my vehicle. When I came back my driver told me that one of the women want to consult me because her daughter has some health issues. The older women accompanying her daughter (about 15-16 year old) explained me that her daughter complains of weakness all the time. She went on to explain that a year ago the daughter complained about having “heart beat being faster and heavy” and therefore the family in a hurry found a groom and married her off. She said that the despite marrying the heart beat has not slowed down and now she feels extremely tired and cannot do work at home. This has made her husband and in-laws very angry. I performed a simple examination and found that the girl was extremely pale and was having palpitations due to severe anemia. I prescribed her some iron tablets and I left the village.

    Later I asked my driver what why was the older women referring to the heart beat and her daughter getting married. He explained me that in villages, when a young girl complains of heavy heart beat or faster beats, the parents/community interprets it as “the young girls’s heart is seeking a male companion” and they usually start finding for the groom. This is to explain one of the many beliefs communities hold towards early marriage especially for girls.

    I would also express my concern about the program the government has launched. Even though it is a great initiative, it lacks teeth to implement it. The program needs for administrative power to implement it. Maybe coming up with legislation against marriage below 21 years of age and link it to legal punishments or fine might be required. On the other hand incentive to the families which do abide to the rule should be introduced. Mass media campaigns and publicity is something else to consider.

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