HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Speakers at a programme today urged the government and other stakeholders to encourage people to marry only after 20 years of age as early marriage can have a negative impact on physiological and psychological health. The young brides are prone to gender-based violence, school dropout, more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases and suffer pregnancy-related complications, among others, said sexual and reproductive health expert Dr Khem Karki.
Addressing the programme of Society for Local Integrated Development Nepal , he said that beyond these physical traumas, child brides often suffer from post-traumatic stress, experiencing feelings of helplessness and severe depression.
According to the marriage chapter of Muluki Ain (Civic Code), the legal age for marriage is 20 years for both male and female or 18 where the marriage is solemnised with the consent of the guardians.
"The law has it that a person must be at least 20 years old to get married, but people are seldom punished for disobeying the laws," said Karki, urging the government and other stakeholders to address the issues.
Padam Raj Bhatta, chief of the population division at the Health Ministry, said child marriage affect every aspect of a girl’s life, from her education prospects to her physical and mental health.
He added that the lack of education opportunities and concern for the security of girls are the major factors that contribute to child marriage.
According to Nepal Health Demographic Survey-2011, women in Nepal get married at a fairly young age — a median age at first marriage of 17.5 years for women aged 25-49.
About 18 per cent of women aged 25-49 years in Nepal are married by the age of 15 and more than half (55 per cent) by 18 years of age.
Only 19 per cent of men in the same age group are married by 18 years of age and the median age at first marriage for men aged 25-49 is 21.6, four years later than women.
The survey also showed that only two per cent of Nepali women aged 25-49 years had given birth by the age of 15, while 23 per cent had their first birth by age 18.
According to Girls Not Brides, an INGO working to end child marriage, every year an estimated 10 million girls worldwide are married before they turn 18, usually with no say in when or whom they marry among which 46 per cent are from South Asia.