1963: Nepal Bans Child Marriage The minimum age of marriage under Nepali law is twenty, one of the highest legal ages of marriage in the world. Though strong on paper, this legislation is not adequately enforced and remains a major issue in the country, with thirty-seven percent of girls in marrying before age eighteen and ten percent married by age fifteen (HRW).
1973: National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (NPWCA) This legislation recognizes the importance of and provides for the protection of wildlife and natural areas in Nepal. The use of natural resources by local communities is also regulated to further sustainable development. The Act gives the government the ability to establish six different kinds of protected ecologically-valuable areas and outlined mechanisms to maintain biodiversity in those areas. Furthermore, thirty-eight endangered species are given special and complete protection (FRA).
1993: Forest Act Recognizing the value of forests’ environmental services and commodity production, this legislation gives the Nepalese government the power to declare any part of a national forest as protected and directs the Department of Forests to prepare an operational plan for every protected forest (FRA). Many forests have been handed over to communities for local management (WWF).
1996-2006: Nepalese Civil War A ten-year conflict between the national government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) that caused almost 13,000 deaths, a quarter of a million internally displaced persons, and emigration of 1.8 million people. The rebel group criticized the Nepali government for lack of action on combatting social and economic inequalities. They began what they called “The People’s War” in reaction to high levels of poverty and discontent in a country with a rapidly growing and youthful population (Matthew & Upreti).
25 April 2015: Gorkha Earthquake This earthquake and its aftershocks caused catastrophic loss of life, property, and possessions in more than thirty-one Nepali districts. Environmental damage occurred as well, such as damage to agricultural fields, landslides, and water contamination (Government of Nepal).
March 2016: Girl Summit to End Child, Early, and Forced Marriage Following Nepal’s commitment at the 2014 London Girl Summit to end child marriage by 2030, a five-point pledge was made to work towards eradicating the wide spread issue (Unicef Nepal).
June to September 2017: South Asian Monsoon Flooding At least 41 million people in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal were impacted by severe flooding and landslides from a particularly merciless annual monsoon season. More than 1,000 people lost their lives, and thousands of homes were destroyed (Gettleman).
Child Marriage in Nepal
Nepal has the third highest rate of child marriage in Asia, after Bangladesh and India, a Unicef report indicates. Despite having one of the strictest laws on the continent, high levels of gender inequality and poverty in Nepal perpetuates the child marriage cycle. The law states that punishment for child marriage is imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of up to 10,000 rupees, but this is rarely enforced or brought to court. Child marriage constitutes a threat to human security, and environmental degradation and natural disasters can exacerbate the poverty and social inequality that breeds the lack of options for many young girls. The Gorkha earthquake in 2015 devastated many communities. Women and girls, who are many times considered a “burden” on families and inferior to males, become increasingly vulnerable during and after natural disasters. These events lead to a disruption of economic activities such as agriculture and tourism, causing many families to consider marrying off daughters in order to provide them with a chance of shelter and food. Child brides are less likely to receive an education, more likely to become pregnant at a young age and therefore more likely to experience health complications and higher infant mortality rates, and more likely to be domestically abused. These are all aspects of human security, specifically community security, personal security, and health security. Although Nepal’s Girl Summit in 2016 recognized many of the interconnecting factors encouraging child marriage and the need to enforce laws preventing forced and early marriages, there is a long way to go to end impunity for forced marriages and provide more opportunities for females (HRW).
The Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) Program. Forest Resources of Nepal Country Report. Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations. Rome, 1999.
Gettleman, Jeffry. “More Than 1,000 Died in South Asia Floods This Summer.” The New York Times. New York, 29 August 2017.
Government of Nepal. Nepal Earthquake 2015: Rapid Environmental Assessment. Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. Nepal, 2015.
Human Rights Watch. Our Time to Sing and Play: Child Marriage in Nepal. HRW. 2016.
Matthew, Richard & Upreti. “Environmental Change and Human Security in Nepal.”
Unicef Nepal. “Nepal Hosts Its First Girl Summit to End Child, Early and Forced Marriage.” Unicef. Nepal, 2016.
World Wildlife Fund. “History of Nepal Conservation.” WWF, 2014.