Drive to end child marriage, dowry

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Oct 10, 2014-

On the eve of the International Day of the Girl Child, a group of child-rights organisations launched a national campaign against child marriage and dowry system in Kathmandu on Friday. Campaign materials such as stickers, flex prints, notebooks and audio/visual contents were also released on the occasion. These materials are available in six languages: Nepali, English, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Awadhi and Tharu.

Raj Kumar Mahato, chairperson of Bhore Nepal, a research focused non-governmental organisation leading the campaign, said that the crusade will culminate to a Girl Summit next year in Kathmandu.

The prevailing Country Code (Muluki Ain) prohibits child marriage and is punishable by imprisonment up to three years and/or by a fine up to Rs 10,000. If the marriage takes place in ignorance of the law, the violators are exempted from punishment.

The Country Code, however, does not ban the tradition of dowry, recognising it as a movable and immovable property offered to a woman from her parents at her wedding. The Social Practices (Reform) Act 1976, on the other hand, bans any arrangement of receiving and donating property as dowry, allowing only a maximum of Rs 10,000 in cash as a wedding gift. Any one violating the law is liable to a prison sentence of 15 days and/or a fine up to Rs 10,000, followed by the confiscation of dowry.

“We do have strong laws against both child marriage and the dowry system, but they have not scared people off. As long as our society does not take these systems as evil practices, these will continue,” said Mahato.

According to a report published in 2013 by Save the Children, Plan Nepal and World Vision International, 52.3 percent of girls and 33.8 percent of boys get married before the age of 18. The research carried out in 15 districts also found out that food security played a major role in preventing child marriage.

Chief Secretary Lila Mani Poudel warned that it would be foolish to assume that only illiterate, poor and marginalised communities donate properties as dowry. “In the 18 dowry-related cases filed with the police last year, 12 were from Kathmandu,” said Poudel.

Published: 11-10-2014 09:27

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