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Child marriage still lingers in Far-west Nepal in name of earning piety

DOTI: The legal age of marriage is 20 years. But the custom of child marriage is still prevalent in the hilly districts of the Far-west state.
The religious superstition that marrying off one’s daughter before she reaches puberty is a pious act has been in existence in the remote rural areas of the state, which is one reason for the presence of child marriage practice in the region, said Uttam Dhariya, a local of Dipayal.
He said, “Child marriages are secretly held in the name of earning piousness. This practice should be put to an end,” he insisted.
The practice of marrying off one’s daughter before she reaches legal age for marriage is mostly found among the Brahman, Chhetri and the dalit castes in Dadeldhura, Achham, Bajhang, Bajura, Darchula and Doti among other hilly districts of the far-west region.
The tradition is continuing as no concrete initiatives are taken by the government and the communities to stop it, a local, Man Bahadur Dhami, said.
“The organisations that have been opened for stopping such practices and even the local administration are doing precious little toward that end,” he lamented.
Chief District Officer of Doti, Yadav Subedi said the boys and girls can marry when they are 18 years if their parents and guardians consented to it but the legal age of marriage is 20 years if they want to marry on their own.
Although the law stipulates for penalty to all the people involved in child marriage, nobody has been prosecuted for this offence in the Far-west so far.
The practice of under-age marriage has not been controlled despite of various governmental and non-governmental orgnisations remaining active in stopping it.
According to the locals, the prevalence of child marriage in the Fr-west state is at least 70 percent.
“Child marriage is increasing day by day in this region due to the lack of awareness about the legal provisions among the locals and as organisations concerned in the district have not paid much attention to this issue,” explained Mekhraj Bhatta, another local.
Tulasi Shahi from Pipalla, Dipayal in Doti district, who is a women rights activist, said they have not been able to stop this ill-practice despite knowing that girls marrying at early age are at high risk of death while giving birth to children at that tender age.
“Some people with dogmatic views and religious belief have been marrying off their daughters at an early age in the name of earning religious piety despite knowing the health and other associated risks with under-age marriage. They even do not buy our words when we tell them that child marriage was a harmful practice and a superstition. The law-enforcement bodies have to step in to stop this practice,” she said, indicating the urgency of concrete steps to stop growing child marriage in the region.

(File Photo: Sharmila G., 14, eloped at age 12 and married an 18-year-old man. At the time this picture was taken she was seven months pregnant. She said that when rumors spread in her village about her relationship with her then-boyfriend, her parents tried to separate them, so they eloped. Sharmila said sheregrets marrying early and leaving school. She said she had no knowledge of pregnancy and reproductive health or family planning, and wishes she had not gotten pregnant. April 25, 2016.Photo credit: Smita Sharma – Human Rights Watch)

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