Bachelor Prince Harry's single lifestyle lauded during Nepal visit in campaign against child marriage

Bachelor Prince Harry's single lifestyle lauded during Nepal visit in campaign against child marriage

Bachelor Prince Harry's single lifestyle lauded during Nepal visit in campaign against child marriage

Updated 24 March 2016, 14:20 AEDT

Prince Harry is lauded for his single lifestyle by campaigners against child marriage, who hope he can fight the romanticised image of married life during his trip to Nepal.

On a Royal tour of Nepal, England's Prince Harry is being lauded as a somewhat unusual role model — an unmarried one.

Key points

  • 40 per cent of children marry below the age of 18, according to child rights group Plan Asia
  • Prince Harry opens summit aimed at getting Nepal to follow through on commitment to eradicate child marriage by 2030
  • Children choosing to wed due to romanticised Bollywood image of marriage

His partying may have attracted unwanted attention before, but campaigners in Nepal say the Prince's lifestyle makes him the perfect person to fight the romanticised image of married life.

Child marriage is a huge problem in Nepal.

According to one survey by child rights group Plan Asia, 40 per cent marry below the age of 18.

Yesterday, Prince Harry opened a summit in Kathmandu aimed at getting Nepal to follow through on a commitment to eradicate child marriage by 2030.

Organisers hope he will help internationalise the issue.

"So many countries and cultures are failing to protect the opportunities for young women and girls in the way they do for boys," the Prince said in his remarks.

He went on to acknowledge, in terms of combating gender stereotypes at least, he had a role to play.

"I believe it is vitally important for men like me to acknowledge this as loudly and vocally as role models do," he said.

Namrata Sharma, a writer who has investigated and campaigned against child marriage, said the practice was rooted in long-held cultural beliefs.

"Parents believed if they married off daughters before age of puberty, it was a very holy act ... they would get nirvana," she said.

Ms Sharma hopes seeing the single Prince during his tour of Nepal will give the country's children pause for thought before committing themselves.

"He's Royal blood, he's not married and he is trying to give messages, to play with the youth, encourage them to move on with education and all that," she said.

'My in-laws even beat my parents'

The consequences of child marriages are horrifying.

Girls die or suffer complications from trying to give birth before their bodies have matured.

Others, like 14-year-old Rhada Kumary Rishidev from Nepal's Tarai region, endure domestic abuse from much older husbands.

"I didn't want to get married and wanted to keep studying," she said.

"But the neighbours were saying that 'she is getting old, she should be married'."

After a month of beatings from her much older husband, she called her parents in despair.

They initially tried to persuade her to stay with her new husband, until his family attacked Rhada's during a visit.

"They were very sad and upset and said that a lot had been spent on the marriage and tried to convince me that I should stay, but then when they came to visit, my in-laws even beat my parents," she said.

Rhada's family took her home after that.

Bollywood movies celebrating 'love marriages'

But if firmly entrenched religious beliefs were not enough of a battle, those fighting the practice now face a new problem — children choosing to elope themselves.

Ms Sharma blames the idealised view of marriage from Bollywood movies celebrating the triumph of so-called "love marriages" over arranged ones.

"There has crept a new form of child marriage that didn't exist say 10 years ago, and that is what they call love marriage," she said.

"Modern technology has reached rural areas.

"Girls have access to mobiles and internet and TV has reached really remote parts of Nepal so through this what has happened is they feel [and] they start fantasising that, 'oh, if we get married, we'll have a life full of fun'."

That is where she sees a role for the single Prince Harry.

"When there are role models who are not married but doing good work, either socially, economically or even professionally, they do stand up as role models to young," Ms Sharma said.