Binita, who is 18, is a single mother to a three-year-old boy. She was married at the age of 14 and gave birth a year later. Two years later, she separated from her husband.

“My son and I have been living with my mother after my husband left us,” said Binita, who the Post is identifying with a pseudonym for privacy reasons.

After she got married when she was in the sixth grade, she gave up her studies. Neither her parents nor her in-laws encouraged her to continue school. In fact, her in-laws asked the couple to find their own accommodation as the couple did not have any income and were considered a burden to the household.

Binita’s story is playing out across the length and breadth of Nepal, which has one of the highest prevalence of child marriage and early pregnancy in Asia. Reports suggest that the practice of child marriage is more widespread in remote villages, but it is also very much present in slums and outskirts of big cities including the capital Kathmandu.

A recent report, ‘Nepal Demographic and Health Survey-2022’, carried out by the Ministry of Health and Population, shows that overall, 14 percent of women aged 15–19 have been pregnant, including 10 percent who have had a live birth while two percent experienced a pregnancy loss.

According to the report, teenage pregnancy is the highest in Karnali Province (at 21 percent), followed by Madhesh Province (20 percent). Of the total pregnancies in Bagmati Province, eight percent are teenage pregnancies, the report shows.

Binita’s family, originally from Ramechhap district, has for years been residing in Tarakeshwar Municipality of Kathmandu. Binita and her ex-husband had eloped and married at a local temple in the municipality to avoid legal hassles.

According to Nepal’s Civil Code, the minimum age for marriage for both women and men is 20. As per Article 173 of the Criminal Code, a person found guilty of either committing or arranging a child marriage is subject to a jail term of up to three years and a fine of Rs30,000.

Binita and her ex-husband did not legalise their marriage fearing penalisation. As in most cases of child marriage, this allowed Binita’s husband to shrug off all responsibilities to his wife and child and made it easier for him to abandon them.

Binita’s husband started abusing drugs and then assaulting her, she said. “Instead of providing for our son, he started beating me up, questioning my intentions with other men,” she added. “There was no option for me but to let him go.”

Binita said she has now realised that the decision to get married early and discontinue education has ruined her life and affected the future of her child.

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