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10 million additional girls at risk of child marriage due to COVID-19: Study

10 million additional girls at risk of child marriage due to COVID-19: Study

Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, at least 10 million more girls are at risk of being forced into marriage, says a new analysis by United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) released on International Women's Day.

According to the analysis titled 'COVID-19: A threat to progress against child marriage', school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy, and parental deaths due to the pandemic are some of the common reasons that put the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage. Lack of jobs and sufficient income to sustain the family have also contributed significantly to the young girls being married off to reduce the financial burden.

The pandemic also had a profound impact on the mental and physical health, familial circumstances, etc. increasing the likelihood of child marriage, and the report points out that as a result of the pandemic, up to 10 million more girls will be at risk of becoming child brides over the next decade.

Even before the pandemic began, about 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade. The proportion of young women, who were married as children, declined in the last decade from 25 per cent to 20 per cent. However, the small ray of hope to further reduce the proportion is under threat because of the pandemic.

"International Women's Day is a key moment to remind ourselves of what these girls have to lose if we do not act urgently, their education, their health, and their futures," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Child marriages can have a heavy toll on girls' mental and physical well-being as it leads to domestic violence, unplanned pregnancy, resulting in maternal complications and mortality, etc.

An estimated 650 million girls and women alive today worldwide were married in childhood, with about half of those marriages occurring in countries like Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Nigeria.

Before the pandemic, a few countries were on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of ending child marriage by 2030, but the pandemic has emphasized the need to accelerate the progress towards attaining the target.

Reopening schools, implementing effective laws and policies, ensuring access to health and social services, including sexual and reproductive health services, providing comprehensive social protection measures for families etc., are some of the ways to considerably reduce the rate of child marriages, explained Fore.

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TAGS:Child marriageviolenceWomen rights
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