COVID-19 could force millions of girls into marriage

Child marriages worldwide

from ADANE BIKILA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA, (CAJ News) THE coronavirus (COVID-19) is disrupting global efforts to end child marriages.

It is feared that because of the outbreak and subsequent lockdowns, 10 million additional marriages might occur before the end of the decade.

This is according to a report released on International Women’s Day, celebrated yearly on March 8.

The report warns that school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of marriage.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), even before the COVID-19 outbreak at the end of 2019, 100 million girls were at risk of marriage in the next decade.

In the last ten years, the proportion of young women globally who were married as children had decreased by 15 percent, equivalent to some 25 million marriages averted.

This gain is now under threat.

“COVID-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse,” lamented UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

“Shuttered schools, isolation from friends and support networks, and rising poverty have added fuel to a fire the world was already struggling to put out.”

Worldwide, an estimated 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, with about half of those occurring in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Nigeria.

Child marriage increases the risk of early and unplanned pregnancy, in turn increasing the risk of maternal complications and mortality.

– CAJ News

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