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Child Marriage:

Child marriage is a global problem, affecting millions around the world. Within South Asia, Nepal has one of the highest rate of child marriage, despite laws against it. Figures show that 38.4% of women in Nepal between the ages of 20-49, are reported to have got married before the age 18 (MICS 2019).

Child marriage threatens the lives and health of both boys and girls (although dispropotiantely), and limits their future prospects. Girls pressured into child marriage often become pregnant while still adolescents and are at higher risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. During crises and emergencies, girls are more at risk, as was evident during COVID-19. Child marriage has multiple drivers—tradition/norms, poverty, lack of education, insecurity and gender inequality - all factors that were further exacebated during the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing milllions of girls into child marriages.

The Government of Nepal has taken some good steps to end child marriage in Nepal, making it illegal in 1963. The Government has also endorsed a National Strategy to End Child Marriage in Nepal by 2030. 

UNFPA is working closely with all its partners in Nepal to end all forms of violence against women and girls which include harmful practices such as child marriage. However much more work needs to be done to end this harmful practice. 

Under the 2016-2030 Global Programme to End Child Marriage (currently in Phase II 2020-2023), jointly implemented with UNICEF with local partners in Nepal, UNFPA is working to promote policies and programmes designed to end child marriage. 

Apart from advocating for strong policy implementation, across Nepal UNFPA together with its partners are delivering ‘Rupantaran’ - meaning ‘transformation’ in Nepali - which is an innovative initiative which provides a comprehensive package of life skills tailored for both adolescents and parents. This has given many girls the confidence to find their voice and to exercise their agency. It has empowered them to make responsible decisions about their own future, support their peers to prevent child marriage, and influenced change in their communities.

Building on the success of Phase I of this Programme (2016-2019), UNFPA will continue to support gender-transformative centered programmes that enable them to have choices. This includes setting up of adolescent corners to ensure young people have access to age-approriate comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health information and services, so that they can make a safe transition to adulthood. UNFPA remains committed to ending child marriage in Nepal by 2030.



Gender-Biased Sex Selection:

Nepal has been identified as a country with a strong preference for a son ever since the World Fertility Surveys first documented the phenomenon in the 1980. Since then, the country has been showing signs of skewed or distorted sex ratios at birth with male children far exceeding female children in some districts. This is referred to as Gender Biased Sex Selection (GBSS) which generally means the preference of selecting the sex of one’s offspring - in this case (and in several other countries), preference for a son. 

Beyond the immediate issue of non-acceptance of the girl child by the family, this has other far-reaching dire consequences, affecting the wellbeing of both the child and the mother throughout their entire life-cycle. 

Son preference is an expression of the low value that girls are afforded in some communities. It often reflects discriminatory socio-economic practices and traditions. For example, in some places, sons alone inherit property, carry on the family name etc. Meanwhile, daughters may be considered a burden, particularly if an expensive dowry is required for them to get married.

Such traditions place huge pressure on women to produce sons. Some women even face abandonment or violence if they have daughters instead of sons. This also links to other harmful practices such as child marriage, dowry etc and ultimately affects women’s sexual and reproductive lives, with implications for their health, wellbeing and survival.

The Constitution of Nepal (2015) guarantees the right to safe motherhood and reproductive health of women as a fundamental right. The Constitution of Nepal also guarantees the right to equality as one of the fundamental right and specifically prohibits discrimination in the application of the general laws including on the grounds of sex, marital status and pregnancy. The Act relating to Children (2018) also specifically prohibits any type of discrimination between son and daughters. Under the Nepalese legal system, Sex Selective Abortion (SSA) was made a punishable offence. Despite these legal guarantees, GBSS is widespread and prevalent.

With support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), UNFPA is working to end all forms of harmful practices by, 

Enhancing the value of girls
Improving the sex ratio
Developing evidence-based response to the underlying drivers and consequences of GBSS and its interconnectedness with other harmful practices