Saturday, February 04, 2006

Child marriages still on in valley vicinity

Razen Manandhar

Nuwakot, February 3[2006]: Seven couples between the ages of 14 and 17 years tied the knot today in a village 20 kilometres northwest of the capital on the occasion of Sri Panchami, an auspicious day in Newari culture.

Despite legal prohibition, the age-old tradition of child marriage is still ongoing in the Kagati Gaon village. Around 350 Balami families migrated here from Bhaktapur during the Malla period.

“It is none of our concern,” said an old man, who did not allow this reporter to take a picture of the young bride, who came to her new home this morning. Due to adverse coverage in the media in past several years, locals do not welcome journalists in their area. He added that each community has its own traditions and others should not “poke their noses”.

Last year the villagers had broken a camera of a journalist who attempted to take pictures of a child marriage ceremony. Last night they had a scuffle with a documentary film maker who tried to do the same.

However, some youths recently launched a campaign against child marriage and this has checked the practice to some extent. Samir Balami, a young activist staged a street drama against the practice while child marriages were being performed in the locality.

“The tradition is now not as rampant as before but we must admit that it is still going on,” said Chakra Man Shrestha, the chairman of the local Mahalaxmi Janajagriti Youth Club, adding that a decade ago they used to have over 25 child couples, some not even 10 years of age, tie the knot each year.

Eighteen-year-old Kabita Shrestha, who now studies in Grade VIII, said she would say no to marriage till she is grown up. “Instead, I would continue to study till my family can afford and work to end child marriage in the village,” she added.

A young teacher of a local Sri Bhawani Proposed High School Shambhu Balami Shrestha, said local social mobilisation can help. With no agent to implement the legal provision in the village, the same don’t work here, he added. Villagers say it has been years since they last saw a policeman in the area.

The Himalayan Times, 4 February 2006