Though child marriage is illegal, cases often come to light, more frequently within communities like the Doms of Bara or some Balami families of Nuwakot, who find Sri Panchami particularly auspicious for the ceremony, or among rural families, which suffer from poverty, superstition or dowry demands. Worse still, those guilty of child marriage get away in most cases. This has emboldened guardians and priests or other accomplices to flout the law. Last Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a directive to government authorities to strictly implement the provision of punishment under the Marriage Chapter of the Civil Code (Muluki Ain) 1963.

As per the recent amendment to the Civil Code, 20 years is the minimum marriageable age for both boys and girls without the parents’ consent. With consent it is somewhat lower. Section 2 of marriage-related provisions of the Muluki Ain states that those found guilty of child marriage will have to face up to six months to three years of imprisonment or pay Rs. 10,000 in fine, or both. Early pregnancy, violence in marital life, economic dependence, discontinuation of formal education and health problems are some of the negative consequences of child marriage. The practice is abominable just because a minor cannot make informed decisions or does not know the implications of marriage, or at times, even what marriage is all about. Laws are made to be honoured. So the government needs to come down heavily on those responsible for child marriage, or this social evil will continue to haunt Nepali society.