In Nepal, 37 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, despite the legal age of marriage being 20 for both girls and boys. Poverty, peer and family pressure, as well as gender inequality, all drive child marriage in Nepal, leaving the country with one of the highest rates of child marriage in South Asia. Food insecurity plays a key role too. Nepali families that do not have enough food to eat are more likely to marry their daughters at a young age to decrease the financial burden on the family – which is all too often associated with having girls rather than boys.
Child marriage results in girls being pressured to drop out of school and pushes them into having children at a time when they are neither physically or mentally ready. At an age when girls should be attending classes at school and learning life skills, which could help pull themselves and their families out of poverty, they instead find themselves looking after their new in-laws, working in low paid jobs on farms or at brick kilns, and having children under pressure from their new in-laws and their local community.
The government of Nepal is working hard to tackle this issue and has developed a national action plan to end child marriage, but the post-earthquake and post-fuel crisis period has delayed putting this plan into action.
In 2016, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage met Radhika in a remote hill station in Makwanpur District, Nepal. At just 17, she was already six months pregnant and had dropped out of school over a year earlier to get married. This is Radhika’s story.