The social evil of child marriage continues unabated in the country even though it has dropped slightly in recent times.

Nepal Police reported 64 cases of child marriage in the fiscal 2019-20 compared to 88 in the previous fiscal.

Similarly, 27 cases of child marriage were recorded during the lockdown imposed by the government to subdue the COV- ID-19 pandemic.

As a member of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children, Nepal has committed to implementing the first Regional Action Plan to End Child Marriage in South Asia (2015-2018). In November 2014, SAARC Seminar was organised in Nepal. The seminar produced an outcome document on 'Kathmandu Call for Action to End Child Marriage in South Asia'. The indicator for ending child marriage has been included in Sustainable Development Goals (2016- 2030).

Accordingly, the initiative of declaring child marriage-free local body has also been initiated by the local governments.

Despite ample interventions against child marriage by the government, non-government organisations and development partners, cases of child marriage are still rampant, says a recent report on 'State of Children in Nepal' by National Child Rights Council under the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens.

As recorded, Nepal is in the third place after Bangladesh and India among SAARC member states in terms of child marriage cases. The National Census of 2011 revealed the fact that a total of 138,015 children, including 115,150 girls and 22,865 boys, were married before the age of 10 years. Similarly, a total of 1,363,107 children, including 1,101,223 girls and 261,884 boys between the age of 10-14 years were married and a total of 6,517,281 children, including 4,340,497 girls and 2,176,784 boys were married at the age of 15-19 years. The data indicates that girls are more victimised than boys by child marriage.

The constitution, Civil Code Act and other relevant laws prohibit marriage under the age of 20 years. Recently, the MoWCSC had issued a procedure to carry out programmes at the local levels in a bid to eliminate social anomalies and malpractices such as child marriage. The ministry said the procedure aimed at incorporating anti-child marriage programmes into periodic and annual plans and programmes of the local levels and implementing them effectively; ensuring the participation of male children, teenagers and men in fighting child marriage; and developing the capacity of children, teenagers, parents, guardians, teachers, political and religious leaders, among other stakeholders.

According to the ministry, the programmes are being conducted by the local levels, and they include raising awareness of child rights, sexuality, sexual and reproductive health and rights against child marriage, training for child clubs and communities, development of child-friendly infrastructure, formation and mobilisation of child and youth clubs exclusively against such social malpractice.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 29, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.