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Covid-19 impact could result in additional 10 million child marriages this decade: UNICEF

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 08, 2021

BHUBANESWAR, 26/02/2021: Khusubu Patra, a girl child of a migrant labour family carries her little brother at an NGO-run school at Bhingharpur village on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. During the pandemic children migratr with their parents to brick kilns   -  The Hindu

School closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that the far-reaching impact of the coronavirus pandemic on women could result in an additional 10 million child marriages this decade.

UNICEF released a report titled “Covid-19: A threat to progress against child marriage.”

It wrote: “School closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage.”

According to UNICEF, that trend, if confirmed, would translate into a serious retreat from recent years of progress against child marriage.

The UNICEF study revealed that in the last 10 years, the proportion of young women globally who were married as children had declined by 15 per cent, from nearly one in four to one in five.

Also read: Covid-19 pandemic impacted health, psychosocial well-being of children in India: UNICEF

That progress “is now under threat,” said the study, released on International Women’s Day.

“Covid-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse. 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,” said Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore.

The report noted that girls who marry in childhood are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school. They face an elevated risk of early and unplanned pregnancy, and maternal complications, and mortality.

UNICEF also believes that pandemic-related travel restrictions and physical distancing have made it harder for girls “to access the healthcare, social services and community support that protect them from child marriage, unwanted pregnancy, and gender-based violence. This made it more likely that they drop out of school.”

Additionally, families facing economic setbacks may seek to marry off their daughters to ease financial burdens.

The report estimates that 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, about half of them in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, or Nigeria.

Fore urged these countries to reopen schools, implement legal reforms, ensure access to health and social services while providing measures to protect families.

Published on March 08, 2021

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