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Child Marriages on the Rise After Global Shutdown of Schools

According to World Vision, the global shutdown of schools and widespread economic insecurity due to the pandemic has put 4 million girls at risk for child marriages in the next two years.  

“It really is a survival mechanism,” said Erica Hall, child marriage expert for World Vision. “Parents aren’t doing it maliciously - they just don’t see any other alternative.”

Organizations advocating against child marriages are worried many girls will never be able to go back to school post-pandemic. A U.N. report in April estimated an extra 13 million child marriages over the next decade as a result of the pandemic. Every year, about 12 million girls under the age of 18, or one girl every three seconds, is married. 

According to Hall, there is already evidence of child marriages in India, South Sudan, and Afghanistan, as World Vision has recently worked with police to stop seven marriages after their helplines were called.

British charities have also seen an increase in calls for help from girls afraid their parents will force them into marriages after the lockdown ends. U.K. charity Karma Nirvana said it has seen a 150% increase in teens calling over fears of forced marriages, while Freedom Charity reported a 50% spike in calls for help.

According to the head of the bureau of women, children, and youth affairs in Amhara, Ethiopia, local authorities have halted 540 child marriages since the coronavirus shut down in March. UNICEF found Ethiopia has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, with 15 million child brides. 

In the U.S., child marriage is legal in all but four states, with Pennsylvania and Minnesota banning the practice this past month. As of late, there is concern that states currently allowing applications for marriage licenses online are risking the possibility of manipulated or falsified applications unknowingly allowing child marriages. 

The Realist Woman’s take:

This is one of those stories that is hard to believe, let alone digest, and process. Many of the charities advocating against child marriages are concerned that all of the work and progress they’ve made over the years is already starting to be undone by the mandated lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Studies have shown school has been a place of safety for many young girls whose families arrange forced marriages and with schools closed amid the lockdown, girls are more likely to miss educational opportunities, experience domestic abuse, mental health problems, and they are also more likely to live in poverty and die in childbirth.

There is not one person alive who hasn’t in the least been inconvenienced or at most had their life turned upside-down as a result of this pandemic. But this story is one of the most horrible outcomes of the crisis. 

Closed schools have made girls vulnerable to forced marriages