Child Marriage Cases Rising In Bajura, Despite Efforts
By Sher Bahadur Sarki
Bajura, Feb. 12: Despite decades-long efforts by the government and non-governmental organisations and heavy penalties laid down in the act, incidents of child marriage are still common in Bajura district.
The authorities and stakeholders have been making persistent efforts to prevent child marriage. However, child marriage not only continues in the district but has actually seen an upsurge in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government and non-government organisations have been finding it hard to prevent early marriages, as the children started dropping out of school at an early age and started getting married with guardians’ consent.
Early marriage has caused the school dropout rate to increase in the district. The dropout rate was high among eight and tenth graders. Adolescent boys and girls aged 15-18 year are found discontinuing their studies and being married off.
To respond to the rising number of child marriages in the district and to safeguard progress made in recent years, child marriage prevention programmes have been adapted by the local levels to reach vulnerable adolescents.
Child rights activists believe that exposure to poverty makes adolescents in the rural villages of Bajura prone to child marriage, said child rights activists.
Due to poor family conditions and lack of opportunities, children are forced to drop out of school and get married before reaching the marriageable age, they added.
According to Rugam Sabin Rawat, a child rights activist, the government and non-government organisations were working hard to prevent child marriage, as majority of child marriages took place with parents’ consent.
Rawat said the pandemic’s impact on child marriage is frightening. Closure of schools time and again had fueled child marriages in the district. “Children were not going to school and this has led to school dropouts and early marriages.”
According to Rawat, child marriage is more prevalent in Badimalika, Triveni Budhi Ganga, Khaptad and Chhededah of Bajura.
The cases of child marriages have lately increased in Badeda, Selapakha, Timada, Palbada, Sigada, Deumandau and other villages of Budhi Ganga Municipality-10, said Rakesh BK, chair of ward-level child club.
Similarly, the number of child marriages had increased in Jhali, Kharekhet, Samalkot and other villages of Budhiganga Municipality-7, he added.
BK said adolescent girls and boys of the district dropout of school and get married and then go to India for employment. “Due to this, the literacy rate in this area is much lower than other villages,” said BK.
Bahadur Thapa, a teacher at Basanta Basic School of Budhiganga Municipality-2, said that child marriage has increased as most of the locals in the area were go to India as migrant workers.
“Owing to this, parents do not pay much attention to their children’s education. Because of which school dropout and child marriage are on the rise in the area,” said Thapa.
“Dozens of children in this area have got married this year before reaching marriageable age. Since most of them lack a source of income to pursue higher education, they leave their studies, get married at an early age and start working in India,” he added.
At the same time, various non-governmental and governmental organisations have been conducting awareness generating programmes to prevent child marriage in the region.
Due to this effort, Nadang of Budhiganga Municipality-2 has been declared a child marriage- free zone.
Thapa said pressure from the parents as well as tradition is the primary cause of child marriage, there is a need to change parent’s perception to end child marriage.
Nepal has some of the strongest constitutional and legal protections against child marriage, but lack of implementation allows child marriage to persist, he added.
Programme Coordinator of Good Neighbour, Gobinda Chaudhary said child marriage had declined in most of the villages of Chhededaha Municipality and Budhiganga Municipality in Khaptad.
However, child marriage has actually seen an upsurge in recent months. But the number of complaints related to child marriage at the District Police Office is zero.
Chief of the District Police Office, Bajura, Chaturbhuj Ojha said that various programmes were being organised by the District Police Office, Bajura, Women, Children and Senior Citizens Service Center to prevent child marriage.
Ojha said they made printing house owners and astrologers make written commitments to check the age of both bride and groom before forwarding the work.
“If any printing house deliberately prints wedding cards and banners, if an astrologer arranges the marriage dates of minors, then necessary action will be taken against the persons or organisations,” said Ojha.The Rising Nepal/from