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.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Your making a very skewed argument. You cannot link that stat to underdevelopment and lack of education. Its a cultural statistic more than a developmental one. How about 51% UK couples end in divorce, now is that a sign of underdevelopment or a lack of culture?

  2. The couples is Uk that get divorced is less that 51% and it’s a sign of overdevelopment and lack of culture. The statement I just made is not entirely true either.

    So tell me then, why are 51% of the young people getting married under 20? What’s your reasoning, if you find that Lex is making a skewed argument.

  3. First:
    1) Its a stat that tell us more about the culture of getting married at an earlier age; and no one has made the link between under age marriage and underdevelopment. Yes.. its makes some kind of sense but its too broad of a statement to make and there is very little reasoning besides stating the obvious. There are a host of other cultures that marry at an early age and they seem to be doing fine. I m not saying.. lets all get married at an early age either… but to make an argument on underdevelopment based on marriage rate is off. Perhaps… literacy rates or poverty would be a better stat to use.

    2) I didn’t say its a sign of overdevelopment.. I was saying… could a similar argument to made?

    3)

  4. WTF…the picture looks more like a funeral than a marriage….This is sad, this is the tradition we gotta change

  5. agreed. this is the cultural statistic and lack of education- that need to be change. we have stopped some.

  6. @Sujata

    The thing is that in a developed country like UK; people have a choice to get married and get divorced whenever they want. This is their culture. We can’t say Britain hasn’t got a culture because it has got a culture of it’s own.

    But, not in Nepal. Girls are either forced and persuaded by their parents to get married. What’s the reason behind this.. Underdevelopment! Girls aren’t educated and they cannot stand on their own feet. So, their parents send them away. Had it been for the girls to be educated. They would have got a job or started up their own business which is good for the economy and the country to develop. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Therefore, it does show underdevelopment in a way.

  7. the minimum age for marriage was only extended to 20 years in 2010 . I was shocked when government hastily passed the bill. Its an insult to NEPALI adults/youth(an example of incompetent and an interfering gov.) . By making it ILLEGAL does not solve it. Remember western women only truly got their independence/rights when they actively participated in economy.Jobs creation the real issue here(NOT JOB PROTECTION/DISCRIMINATION,Nepal is a fairly young nation with few really steep developmental indices notably youth literacy(87%).This data is not shocking at all. Why do people think that only female are the victim here? A fairly decent percentage of that data involves under-age men as well.The only way to solve this is to RADICALLY change the syllabus of NEPALESE education,(when we have about 87% literacy rate and NO JOB/child marrage we know the education system has failed).
    Here is my idea, since a significant proportion of education are given by private institute,why don’t they completely scrap SLC,HSEB and form a new standard (one that has vocational and work experience aspect as an essential module) .I am pretty sure there will be full support from NGO or even from GOV/local people.

  8. WELL TO BE HONEST WE STILL HAVE THIS AMONG LAURE SAMAJ! IF NOT MARRIAGE, THEIR PARENTS WOULD’VE THOUGHT ABOUT WHEN THEIR DAUGHTERS ARE VERY YOUNG!!

  9. Anon after comment to @sujata

    Everyone has got ideas for a better future in Nepal. Well I have a few too. Like the one you have put forward like scraping SLC and that. That is the easy bit, coming up with ideas. But, the hard bit is putting that into practice.

  10. guys let me tell you something…..law says ‘you can’t marry if you are under 20’ and the same time it says ‘you can have sex if you are over 16’ it also says ‘ you have right to live anywhere with anyone’…when 2 people under 20 and above 16 gets marry then it is legal….most of the nepalese teen fly away not marry…they start up their own life…if they wana have some good time…why is this world making it issue ? and about crying …it’s because its culture…daar lagcha ni ta keti haru lai…tei ho k… Bhaute Kancho

  11. @ anon 22 April 2012 23:41
    It’s not really that difficult, look at the presidents set by education in other countries.Simply modify it to suite Nepal. Emphasise on real world implementation(jobs) as well as academia, I’ve seen lots of Nepalese paying big money to attend foreign education, If you can create a quality education you have people that are readily willing to pay for it.I am contemplating creating such program once I finish my Degree(hopefully) .So people like me who want quality education don’t have to spend £15,000 a year in tuition(excluding living cost) in a foreign nation.’Everyone has got ideas for a better future in Nepal’– enlighten me with yours.

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