The pandemic has worsened economic distress, and investigations have revealed a distinct connection between marrying early and dying young.
In Rapti Sonari, Nepal, Sapana dreamed of becoming a government official, and each night, in her hut along a bumpy dirt road, the 17-year-old lit a single solar-powered bulb hanging from the ceiling and hit the books, planning out a future much different from her mother’s.
But as the coronavirus crept across Nepal, closing the schools, Sapana lost focus. Stuck in her village with little to do, she struck up a rapport with an out of work labourer.
They fell in love and soon they married. Now, Sapana has given up her professional dreams, with no plans to return to school.
Sapana said as she sat breastfeeding her 2-month-old son on the floor of her simple home, that things might have been different if she hadn’t abandoned her studies.
What happened to Sapana in a small town in Nepal is happening to girls across the developing world, and child marriage is growing at disturbing levels in numerous places, and the coronavirus pandemic is reversing years of hard-earned progress towards keeping young women in school.
In a report, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund predicted that an additional 10 million girls this decade will be at risk of child marriage, defined as a union before the age of 18 years old.
Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director said that COVID 19 has made an already challenging situation for millions of girls even worse and that what especially concerns advocates for children is the obvious connection between marrying early and dying young.
Pregnancy complications and childbirth are the leading cause of death in girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries, according to the World Health Organisation, and the children of child brides are at much greater risk of infant death.
Experts say the pandemic has increased the factors that drive child marriage, such as a lack of education, economic hardship, parental mortality and teen pregnancy, which has been increased by disruptions in getting contraception, and Nankali Maksud, a senior adviser to UNICEF said that COVID 19 had taken them backwards.
In some cases, young girls are forced by parents or other authority figures into marriage with older men. But child advocates also worry about the young women who, because of the pandemic’s impact, are drifting away from school and see early marriage as their only choice, forsaking ambitions, education and a better life.
Many child marriages are never recorded, and UNICEF predicts that 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood.
Child advocates say they’re seeing an upsurge in places where it’s long been a problem, such as India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Malawi, where teen pregnancies in some areas have tripled, and this pandemic has highlighted inequalities in a million different deplorable ways.
This isn’t marriage, it’s rape, and just another name for child trafficking and the United Nations should take this seriously because this is a barbaric criminal act perpetrated against innocent victims that can’t protect themselves against this criminal act that carries serious consequences for the victims, and it’s never okay if there’s a non-consenting child involved.
And telling people when to marry is a sign of a dystopian state, and is intended to exploit young children and women.