Lockdown woes: Child marriage, sexual violence on rise in Nepal

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of humans in unprecedented ways

Shraddha Nand Bhatnagar Jun 07, 2021
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Child marriages (File)

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of humans in unprecedented ways. However, for poor and vulnerable women in Nepal, it came as an added misery as, in the past few months, the incidence of child marriages and sexual violence have recorded a sharp jump in the country. 

Media reports, citing records from Nepal Police, National Women's Commission, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), reported a sharp increase in sexual violence cases during the current pandemic.  

Rights activists aver that the right to bodily autonomy is under threat in the pandemic.  “Child marriages are taking place and girls are forced to become pregnant at a young age,” Rachana Sunar, an advocate for women's rights working in Nepal, was quoted as saying by The Himalayan Times.

This is a violation of bodily autonomy, she said, which is all about empowering women to make informed choices. Authorities need to protect women’s right to bodily autonomy, she added. 

Nearly half of all women in 57 developing countries, including Nepal, are denied their bodily autonomy, according to a recently launched report, 'My Body is My Own’, by the United Nations Population Fund, (UNFP), a UN agency aimed at improving reproductive and maternal health worldwide. 

The same report says only 48 percent of women, aged 15 to 49 years in Nepal can make their own decisions regarding health care, contraception, and sex with their husbands or partners, the report says.

Nepal has a dedicated law, the Safe Motherhood, and Reproductive Health Rights Act in 2018, safeguarding the bodily autonomy of women and girls in Nepal. However, despite the laws, child marriage and sexual violence against women are rampant in the country. 

(The writer can be contacted at snbhatnagar296@gmail.com)

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