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Kopila Wosti: A Girls’ Dreams Shattered as Nepal Fails to Curb Child Marriage

A study by HRW organization showed that child marriage was prevalent throughout Nepal and practiced in Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian communities.

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A portrait of a girl who was married at age 16 is shown in a presentation by New York-based Human Rights Watch during the release of a report on child marriage in Nepal in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sept. 8, 2016. Image source: VOA
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  • Child marriage is a serious problem in Nepal. There are laws against the practice of child marriage which make them illegal in the country but the government has not been successful in implementing such policies
  • One such case is of Kopila Wosti, who was married off by her father at the age of 14
  • She was denied a chance to get a education and choose her own partner
  • A researcher from, Human Rights Watch, conducted a study which revealed that poverty, illiteracy and society’s disapproval of unmarried women was the root cause of the practice of child marriage.

Kopila Wosti was a 14-year-old young bride, who her father married off to a 19-year-old stranger. A year later, she gave birth to a baby girl. By the time she was 20, she had three children.

“The first time I became pregnant, I was not even aware I was going to be a mother and did not know how to raise the child,” said Wosti, now 34, as she sat cross-legged on the floor of a shelter home in the Nepali capital, Kathmandu.

Separated from her husband for over a decade, Wosti blames the marriage for ruining her life — denying her the chance of going to school and of choosing a more suitable partner.

“There are women of my age who are yet to have children,” said the petite woman, dressed in a green shirt and trousers, with her long black hair tied up in a bun.

“I could have gone to school and had a better future, too. But all that is a dream now,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Law not enforced

Child marriage is illegal in Nepal, yet the impoverished Himalayan nation has failed to put in place policies to curb the practice, with almost 40 percent of girls married before age 18, a report by Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

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It found that poverty, compounded by illiteracy and society’s disapproval of unmarried women, compelled many parents to seek out husbands for their daughters.

Yet child marriage often results in a vicious cycle of malnutrition, poor health and ignorance, since a child bride is more likely to drop out of school and experience problems during pregnancy and childbirth.

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Her children are more likely to be underweight or die before age 5, said the report, which was based on over 100 interviews with children, former child brides, parents, and activists.

“Many children in Nepal, both girls, and boys, are seeing their futures stolen from them by child marriage,” said Heather Barr, women’s rights researcher at HRW.

“Nepal’s government promises to reform, but in towns and villages across the country, nothing has changed.”

Heather Barr, center, a researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, speaks during the release of a report on child marriage in Nepal in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sept. 8, 2016. Image source: VOA
Heather Barr, center, a researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, speaks during the release of a report on child marriage in Nepal in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sept. 8, 2016. Image source: VOA

Deep roots in society

The study showed child marriage was prevalent throughout Nepal and practiced in Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian communities.

Government officials said the deeply entrenched nature of child marriage, which the nation has vowed to end by 2030, made it hard to tackle.

“The government considers child marriage as an act of violence and is making efforts to end the scourge, which is deep rooted in the society,” Sushila Paudel, an official from Nepal’s women’s ministry, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

One-third of girls in the developing world are married before age 18, according to the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW).

Child marriage is most prevalent in sub-Saharan African countries such as Niger and Chad, but because of population size, the largest number of child brides live in South Asia.

Marriage for food

Nepal, home to 28 million people, has the third-highest rate of child marriage in Asia after Bangladesh and India, with 37 percent of girls marrying before 18.

The country outlawed the practice five decades ago with a punishment of up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 rupees ($95). The age of marriage is set at 20 years old for both men and women.

But HRW said the law was seldom enforced, with complaints rarely investigated by police or prosecuted.

Police were not immediately available for comment. HRW said gender discrimination and poverty were key factors driving child marriage. Almost 25 percent of Nepalis live on a less than $1.25 a day.

“Some girls said they welcomed a child marriage because they hoped it might mean they had more to eat, a hope that was not always fulfilled,” the report said.

In many communities it is normal for girls to marry soon after puberty, as parents will avoid paying a higher dowry to the groom’s family if the bride is younger, it said. (VOA)

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Did the hijack of flight IC-814 bring India to its knees?

The flight number IC-814 of the Indian Airlines, travelling from Kathmandu to New Delhi was hijacked mid-air.

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The ill-fated flight IC-814 was destined to fly from Kathmandu to Delhi
The ill-fated flight IC-814 was destined to fly from Kathmandu to Delhi

NEW DELHI: The Christmas Eve of 1999 doesn’t go well into the books of Indian history. The whole global community was hit with the hell of a jerk when the news of a plane hijack was set out by the Indian media channels. The flight number IC-814 of the Indian Airlines, travelling from Kathmandu to New Delhi was hijacked mid-air. At the time of the hijack, the airline was carrying 178 passengers and 11 crew members on board, after it took-off from the Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu.

This incident shattered the whole Indian Intelligence wing and questions were already raised on the credibility of R&AW agency. R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing) is the external intelligence unit of India and looks up for the foreign threat counts. But after the hijack of IC-814, every available resource was scrambled to contain the situation which was already out of hand.

Till date, there are a lot of unanswered questions as to why there was no show up of NSG commandos when the aircraft landed at Amritsar and the time was ripe enough to launch a counter-attack on the hijackers.

An article by a profound writer and columnist, Kanchan Gupta has rightly concluded in one of his articles on Kandahar hijack that India standout to be a nation of cowards. When it mattered the most, Indian people turned out in their true colours and let the nation down by surrendering in front of the hijackers.

Prime Minister Atal Beharai Vajpayee thoroughly counted every possible option at his disposal
Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee thoroughly checked all the possible options at his disposal

The initial impact

During this mishappening, NDA government was in the centre and till date is held responsible for such a huge goof-up. The then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in mid-air at the time of the hijack and from the time of the hijack incident, he was informed almost after two hours. The lag in the communication is blamed on the lack of satellite phones at that time.

The moment Vajpayee landed at the Palam Air Base, National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra broke the news of plane hijack.

Vajpayee was taken aback by it and called for an emergency meeting with his security advisor and cabinet ministers. He also called off his birthday and Christmas celebrations, scheduled for that evening.

Later, the five hijackers were identified as Ibrahim Athar, Shahid Akhtar Sayed, Gulshan Iqbal, Sunny Ahmed Qazi, Mistri Zahoor Ibrahim, and Shakir. All of them were found to be the residents of Pakistan and belonged to a dreaded militant organization.

Hijacking ordeal

Just after few moments of the takeoff of flight IC-814, militants hijacked the plane and diverted it to Lahore airport but they were denied permission to land at the airport. Then they head towards Amritsar after realizing that the flight was running low on fuel. The Amritsar’s airport, Raja Sansi Airport was immediately alerted about the hijack and directed to prevent the plane from taking off after the planes landing.

The hijackers demanded the refueling of the plane but it was blatantly rejected by the Indian officials and the aircraft stayed there for another forty-five minutes. Soon hijackers got suspicious and expected a commando attack, so they stabbed a passenger and forced the flight to take off with an almost empty tank. Then the under pressure pilots took off from there and attempted another landing at Lahore airport, even after the denial of permission from Pakistan’s airport authority. But with sheer courage and skill, both the flight pilots of IC-814 landed the plane safely at the landing strip and parked it in the airport’s bay area.

After the refueling of the aircraft by the Pakistani authority, hijackers took off from there and flew to Dubai airport. Dubai officials permitted them to land there and in return, successfully negotiated the release of 13 women and 11 children. The next morning, the plane took off for Afghanistan and landed at Kandahar Airport, at that time which was under the direct control of the terrorist organization.

Demand for ransom

On holding their fort at Kandahar airport, the hijackers demanded the release of 36 terrorists held in Indian prisons in return for safe passage for the people onboard. After hours of herculean negotiations by the security officials, Indian government stumbled upon a deal with them and finally agreed to release three terrorists in exchange for all the hostages. The name of terrorist to be freed included Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, and Ahmed Omar Sheikh.

Within no time, the paperwork was done in order to release the terrorists and they were flown to Kandahar airport.

Finally, after suffering of five stressful day, people were relieved from the captivity of the hijackers
Finally, after suffering for five stressful days, people were relieved from the captivity of the hijackers

Moment of sigh

After that, two aircrafts left for Kandahar airport and Indian officials made the exchange. On the evening of 31st December, hostages of flight IC-814 were flown back to Delhi and a sense of relief prevailed in the Indian government and its people. But, soon the NDA government came under intense fire from various political parties.

Following this incident, India didn’t take much time to learn from this blunder and till date, it is made sure that nothing sort of that magnitude occurs ever. Although, there are still many unresolved mysteries going around in the minds of the people, but no one is up to take the responsibility for such a gaffe. Even the presence of an R&AW agent in the hijacked plane is a matter of contention. Reports suggest that R&AW officials were tipped prior to the hijack but were rashly rebuffed.

Irrespective of all the fuss, the unchallenged credit goes to the people involved in this whole incident and we salute to the bravery and courage put up by the flight pilots and the people on board.