The status of adolescents is a decidedly grey area in Nepal. In some ways they are still treated as a child and in other ways they are expected to be an adult. The legal age of maturity in Nepal is 18 years. However, society often views children much younger than this as being able to take on responsibilities more closely associated with adulthood than childhood. This is particularly true for many girls and for children from poor households.
The majority of Nepali adolescents are not in school. About a third of children aged 13 to 16 years are enrolled in secondary school. When adolescent children leave school they usually enter the workforce. Children of this age run a high risk of labour exploitation, especially as they are more likely than younger children to leave their family and home to find work. Over half of 15-19 year olds claim to be economically active.
Although this is the age that most people in Nepal first become sexually active, adolescent girls and boys have little access to accurate information on sex. Formal sexual education in school is extremely weak. Four out of five adolescents learn about sexual matters from their friends.
Adolescence can lead directly into marriage and parenthood for children in Nepal, particularly for those in rural areas, and especially for girls. Once married, they are expected to take on the roles demanded of their gender by society. This usually means that girls become mothers and caregivers, and boys become breadwinners for their family.