South Asia

Nepal parliament urged to raise legal marriage age

Dark clouds over Nepal's parliament
Image caption There is concern over how long it will take to pass the bill as the political crisis is not yet over

Parliament in Nepal is considering a bill raising the legal age of marriage from 18 to 20 which officials say would help improve maternal health.

Nepal has reduced its maternal mortality rate by half over the past 10 years but the number of women dying in childbirth is still very high.

Officials also say the new legislation would help reduce teenage pregnancies.

Women in Nepal can currently marry from the age of 18, and start a family with the consent of their parents.

In remote and less developed areas, women often marry younger than this and become pregnant before they are fully sexually mature - leading to a higher risk of complications and death during childbirth.

Dr KC Naresh, director of the family health division, department of health said: "We want to encourage all Nepali women not to have children until they're 20.

"If they have them younger, they may not be sexually mature and this can lead to complications."

Officials say they hope this new legislation will also encourage more women to continue with their education and pursue a career, which in turn will lead to better family planning.

They say they hope the Nepalese parliament will pass the bill soon, but the current political crisis may mean a long wait until the new marriage age becomes law.

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