|Photography by Stephanie Sinclair|
Although early marriage is the norm in her small Nepali village, 16-year-old Surita wails in protest as she leaves her family’s home, shielded by a traditional wedding umbrella and carried in a cart to her new husband’s village.
Are you Nepali? Below the age of 20? Unmarried?
If you just gave three YES’s then you are not in the 51% of Nepalese who marry as children (figure by UNICEF). Officially, it is against the law to marry under the age of 20, now here’s something that I was completely unaware of. I guess this is one of the many laws that go invisible in our country.
It was only few weeks ago when someone shared this statistic with me, she was a fellow Nepali herself. She then brandished this statistic to be nonsensical as she burst out stating that this is impossible as she and all her social contacts were young and unmarried. I guess she probably didn’t realise that she belongs in the privileged few million category affording to live abroad, to be educated and to have a VOICE. Something that we forget a little too soon.
Those familiar to the buzz of Thamel and Durbar Marg may forget that Nepal is indeed a poverty-stricken nation with more than half of 29 million people living in less than $1.25 dollars a day. This is one of the key factors that influences parents to give away their daughters at such young age. On a positive note, the child marriage rate is dropping thanks to awareness by organisations such as SOLID Nepal and as girls gain more access to education. The 51% figure came as a shock to me as well. It is saddening. It is what it is. All we can do is, hope and in some ways play a part in directly or indirectly in decreasing the chances of this happening in the long-running future.