Unicef: 10m additional girls at risk of child marriage due to Covid-19
That trend, if confirmed, would represent a serious retreat from recent years of progress against child marriage.
In the last 10 years, according to the study, the proportion of young women globally who were married as children had declined by 15%, from nearly one in four to one in five, the equivalent of some 25 million marriages averted, a gain that is now under threat.
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,” said 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.”
Meantime, pandemic-related travel restrictions and physical distancing have made it harder for girls “to access the health care, social services and community support that protect them from child marriage, unwanted pregnancy and gender-based violence,” while making it more likely that they drop out of school.
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 called for countries to reopen schools, implement legal reforms, ensure access to health and social services while providing measures to protect families.
By doing so, she said, “we can significantly reduce a girl’s risk of having her childhood stolen through child marriage.”
In addition, families facing economic hardship may seek to marry off their daughters to ease financial burdens.