Kathmandu: Nepal is not doing enough to end child marriage, with more than one in three girls married before they reach the age of 18, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
Child marriage is illegal in Nepal, but the law is rarely enforced and a government pledge to end the practice by 2020 was recently delayed to 2030.
“Many children in Nepal – both girls and boys – are seeing their futures stolen from them by child marriage,” said senior women’s rights researcher Heather Barr in a statement from HRW.
“Nepal’s government promises reform, but in towns and villages across the country, nothing has changed.”
HRW said 37 per cent of girls and around 11 per cent of boys in Nepal were under 18 when they married. The legal marriage age is 20.
Many are forced to marry, but HRW’s research also found a rise in voluntary child marriage to escape abuse or poverty, or because they wanted to choose their own partner.
“My parents wanted me to marry someone they had chosen. There were two or three proposals. My parents liked them, but I didn’t,” said Sunita Lam, 16, who eloped with a man she had only spoken to on the phone.
The report, based on more than 100 interviews with people who had been married as children, said girls were being denied an education and faced domestic violence.
Many were also forced to have children before their bodies were ready, it said. “The government has promised change, and that change needs to start now,” said Barr.