The United Nations issued a report earlier this week in which the UN Children’s Fund estimated that over the next decade, more than 10 million girls under the age of 18 would be at risk of child marriage. According to UNICEF’s executive director, Henriette Fore, COVID-19 “has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse.”
Children’s advocates are particularly concerned about the correlation between early marriage and early death. This is due to the risks of pregnancy complications and childbirth, which are the leading causes of death in children from less developed countries. According to pandemic researchers, COVID has exacerbated the factors that drive child marriage, such as a lack of schooling, economic deprivation, parental death, and teen pregnancy. Since Nepal relies on both tourism and financial aid, the global pandemic has destroyed both. Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese employees have since been laid off in major cities, leaving them distraught.
Furthermore, as the pandemic spreads through the state, child marriage has become a growing problem. The legal marriage age is 20 years old, but competing issues have made it difficult for many young women to escape early marriage.
In certain instances, young girls are coerced into marrying older men by their parents or other authority figures. As a result of the pandemic’s effects, child advocates are concerned about young women who are dropping out of school and seeing early marriage as their only choice for stability, leaving hopes for a better life. Many of these child marriages go unrecorded. According to UNICEF, 650 million young women were married as children today. These increases have been popular in areas where child marriage has long been a concern, such as Nepal, where teen pregnancies have nearly tripled.
Activists against child marriage have attempted to address the issue by operating under the most daunting circumstances they have ever encountered. However, because of Nepal’s stricter restrictions on vehicular movement, it has become more difficult to maintain control of the situation. When the pandemic started to spread, campaigners were forced to stay indoors, making it more difficult to reach out to young people affected by child marriages. Many advocates claim that the number of child marriages in their areas has more than doubled or nearly doubled since the pandemic began.
Police officers stationed in villages have been ineffective because their primary focus has been on implementing quarantine laws and analyzing virus cases. Others have expressed hesitation to participate. Many residents believe deeply in the advantages of child marriage, and some have falsified their daughters’ birth certificates to escape legal repercussions. Human rights organizations, the UN, and those campaigning against childhood marriage need to sought out new ways to fight against child marriage.