Sexual and reproductive health

Perspectives on sexual violence during early years of marriage in Nepal: findings from a qualitative study

Social science research policy brief

UNDP/UNFPA/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP)

Policy brief

Publication details

Number of pages: 4
Publication date: 2009
Languages: English
WHO reference number: WHO/RHR/HRP/09.01



Nepal is a traditional (mostly patriarchal) society in which most women receive little or no formal education and have limited decision-making power in the household. Both men and women marry early, with over half of all women and 15% of men aged 20–24 years reporting being married by the age of 18 years (2).

Among both men and women, knowledge of sex and reproductive health is limited. The prevailing culture in Nepal values chastity in women, but accepts sexual assertiveness in men. A combination of primarily these and other factors inhibits communication between men and women on matters related to sex and sexuality.

Recognizing the existence of sexual violence within marriage in the country, in 2006, the Government of Nepal passed a law which made it a criminal offence for a husband to have forced sex with his wife. The law defines forced sex by a husband as a form of marital rape (3). In practice, however, this law is not enforced strictly owing to a lack of support for it among law enforcement agencies and the tendency among people to blame rather than support victims of sexual violence.

To understand how people in Nepal define and perceive sexual violence, and to explore reasons for sexual violence within marriage among young couples, a groundbreaking study was conducted in Nepal in 2007.