Bangladesh tops the list of South Asian countries where child marriage is highly prevalent followed by India and Nepal, a new report released here today said and blamed deeply entrenched religious-cultural beliefs, dowry and poverty for such practices.
Child marriage rate was highest in Bangladesh as 65 per cent girls were married by the age of 18, said the report titled 'Tipping Point Community Participatory Analysis Study' conducted by Care Nepal in Nepal and Bangladesh.
29 per cent of girls were married before they reached the age of 15 in Bangladesh, according to the report.
It said child marriage was highly prevalent in Nepal's Terai region bordering India and in the far and mid-western part of the country.
Deeply-entrenched cultural and religious beliefs, worries about family reputation, dowry, poverty, and a perceived need to protect the girls from harm, were some of the factors blamed for child marriage in the country, the report said.
The practice of child marriage is mainly attributed in Nepal to gender-inequality, economic constraints, lack of education, poverty and strict religious, traditional and social norms and discriminatory social hierarchies like caste.
It said South Asia has lower rates of child marriage than Sub-Saharan Africa. But due to the large number of population, the greatest numbers of girls marry at an early age.
"The research found that the complex marriage process systematically excludes the voice of girls. When adolescents, especially girls, try to assert their choices around if, whom, and when to marry, they are often stigmatised by their family and communities and seen as standing against the authority of fathers and brothers," the report said.
The study said any change to end the practice can be achieved by empowering girls, providing quality education, engaging men and boys, mobilising families and communities, providing and strengthening services, and implementing laws and policies.