Nepal: Child Marriage Jeopardizes Girls' Access to Education
Tuesday, June 19, 2012 12:55 PM

Nepal has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world, despite the fact that child marriage is a criminal offense. According to the Nepali Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare, over 34 percent of new marriages in Nepal involve a bride under the age of 15. The rate is even higher in rural areas of the country. In some districts in the southern Terai region, over 50 percent of marriages involve girls younger than 12.
Breaking Vows: Early and Forced Marriage and Girls' Education, a recent report by Plan UK, cited poverty, gender inequality, negative traditional norms, weak enforcement of law, and pressures caused by conflict as the primary causes of child marriage in Nepal. Expensive dowries also contribute to high child marriage rates. Older brides typically require higher dowries, ranging from $200 to $20,000, according to an expert from World Education. To minimize these costs, many parents secretly marry their daughters at a young age, though the girl may continue to live with her family until age 16.
Early marriage negatively impacts girls’ education and health. Once a girl is married, her parents are less likely to invest in her education, even if the girl is still living at home. Girls who are married at young ages attend school at lower rates and, if enrolled, tend to perform worse academically.
High child marriage rates thus contribute to the persistent literacy gap in Nepal. Despite the fact that the UN reports that Nepal has achieved gender parity in school enrollment, a wide gender gap remains in school retention and achievement rates. For example, while 72 percent of boys aged 6 to 15 are literate, only 51 percent of girls in the same age group have achieved literacy.

Compiled from: Nepal: The Hidden Costs of Early Marriage, IRIN (15 June 2012).