MAKWANPUR: Sukumaya Chepang (pic) is only 32. She got married when she was 14 and in the last 18 years, she has given birth to 10 babies.Sukumaya’s is a case that spells the problem of early marriage, lack of awareness about reproductive health, and above all the abject poverty in which this mother of 10 and other girls are living in the country.
Giving birth to seven daughters and three sons just at the age of 32 means the mother and children’s health at huge risk. Her eldest daughter is 14 years old and the youngest one is about 15 months old.
The family lives in abject poverty, surviving on edible roots found in the forest. “The food grains produced in our farmland barley last for four months,” said Sukumaya. Her two daughters, aged 14 and 13, are already married.
Most of the Chepang women get married at an early age in Bharta.
Santamaya Chepang, who is only 29, also has given birth eight children (four daughters and four sons). Most of the married women in Bharta have seven to 10 children.
Tanka Moktan, a technical assistant at the Village Development Committee, said women hardly use contraceptives here, largely due to lack of awareness and poverty.
Dr Charan Bista said almost of all Chepang children here have been found to be underweight.
As many as 619 women have given birth to babies at the birthing centre in the last six months. Of them, 11 became mothers when they were 15-18 years of age, according to the data provided by the birthing centre.
Nepal outlawed child marriage in 1963, but the practice is still rampant even today, with rights groups blaming the government for failing to take sufficient steps to end child marriage.
A Human Rights Watch report released in September last year said Nepal has the third-highest rate of child marriage in Asia, with 37 percent of girls marrying before age 18, and 10 percent before 15. The minimum age of marriage for both women and men is 20 under the country’s law.
“Nepal’s government has made some effort to end the practice, but a long-promised national plan has met with delays,” the rights body said.
A joint report released in 2012 by Save the Children, World Vision and Plan said girls who marry young suffer from pregnancy-related complications, uterine prolapse, infant and maternal mortality, malnutrition of both mother and child as well as psychological problems, including depression, violent marital relations and suicides. – The Kathmandu Post/Asia News Network