Maya Gurung (name changed), 49, got married when she was 13 years old and within 2 years, she gave birth to a baby. For the next 4 years, she gave birth to five children. She was never taken to the hospital though she had 5 days long labour pain. Everyone was scared if she was going to die and for force delivery, she was fed with cow dung, as the local believed that she could give birth quickly if she vomits. After painful attempt, she gave birth to her first baby and she faced similar challenges during other deliveries. Moreover, she had to work hard in the fields in post partum period and did not get enough resting periods. She shares, ‘now I came to know that because of the continuous prolong labour pain during all the deliveries and hard field works in the following days, I am now having uterus prolapse.’
These are just past examples and there are few more examples nearing to come because according to a report ‘Marrying Too Young. End Child Marriage’ published by UNFPA (United Nation Population Fund) in 2012, around 41% of girls get into the wedlock before they turn 18. Similarly, median age at marriage among Nepali girls is 17.5 years, according to Nepal Health Demographic Survey-2011. Nepal stands on third position in South Asia recording high child marriages after Bangladesh and India.
The above figure clearly indicates that more percentage of girls have higher chances of getting pregnant which is very harmful concerning their health perspectives. Dr. Aruna Upreti says, ‘girls who get married at early age are sure to get involved in sexual intercourse with their husband which will be a painful experience.’ She added, ‘giving birth will be another challenge because they are not well developed physically; their internal pelvic muscles and cavities are also not matured as a result of which health consequences like prolong labour pain, rapture of uterus, postpartum haemorrhage, obstetric fistula is higher, later ends with uterus prolapse’.
Child marriage is the act that not only bring problematic health problems among mothers but also to the children and ultimately, to the entire family. ‘If a couple gets married at early age, they will be deprived of education which means lack of information about proper family planning and unplanned number of family members pushes them into poverty and on the other side, they will not be able to get handsome jobs’, said Prof. Dr. Ram Krishna Maharjan, Health and Physical Education at Faculty of Education, Tribhuvan University. He added, ‘they will lack proper information for maintaining good health and hence, there will be no healthy family environment.’
Positive changes are getting recorded against child marriage. Many government departments, I/NGOs, local organization, mothers’ groups, youth groups and other stakeholders are contributing actions from their sides to end child marriage. A science teacher at Dhaulagiri Lower Secondary School, Myagdi was put behind bars for marrying his student. Indra Raj Poudel, a priest in Surkhet discarded more than seven child marriages. Such positive changes are seen in some parts of the country but these should be nationwide attempts.
Concerning about consequences of child marriage, government of Nepal had endorsed many programs to prevent young people from getting married, ‘Bihebari Beesh Barsha Pari’ being an example. ‘There have been lots of efforts from the government to end child marriage and government alone cannot function well. Effective implementation of programs will not be possible until and unless multi-sectoral approach is not undertaken’, says Upendra Adhikari, Joint Secretary at Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare. Similarly, Padam Raj Bhatta, Director General, Department of Women and Children says, ‘the prevalence of child marriage among school dropouts have been resulted to be 35% according to Adolescent and Youth Survey 2011 and everyone of us should unite together not to let a single child marriage to happen.’
If we all unite and contribute to fight against child marriage from now, we can save many girls from being patients of uterus prolapse of their future.