Nepal has the highest rates of child marriage, although the country banned the practice five decades ago. Nepal ranks only after Bangladesh in South Asia. Marriage before 18 is defined as ‘child marriage’, marrying before 20 is legally not permitted in Nepal. Any marriage before the legal age remains void and punishable under the law, stipulated in the country’s Muluki Apradh Ain 2074. The current minimum age of marriage in the country is 20 years for both male and female, but the median age at first marriage for women is 17.9 years and 21.7 years for men. Thus, women in Nepal marry about 4 years earlier than men (NDHS 2016).
Child marriage in Nepal shares a complex interrelationships with between culture, economic status, and perspectives on gender. In recent years there has been paradigm shift in drivers of child marriage, evidence shows that nearly a third of child marriage occurs through elopement (UNICEF/Girls Not Brides Nepal 2014).