By Nsunjo Erica
Reports released show that COVID-19 has increased to the rate at which poor families are sending off their young girls into marriage following the financial burdens caused by the pandemic.
Dr. S. Diwakar, the district child protection officer for Mysuru in Karnataka in India said his district reported 123 cases of early marriages between mid-March and July, compared to around 75 for the same period last year.
Reports have also indicated that in Malawi, 42% of girls are married before 18, and with the outbreak of the pandemic, many parents lost their jobs and this has escalated the situation following the financial hardships.
Government reports in countries like Kenya have also reported an increase in teen pregnancies following the closure of schools that set children free to loiter around. Early pregnancy is another reason as to why parents are forcing their young girls into marriage.
More than 40% of girls in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Tanzania said that the pandemic has pushed their families into deeper poverty and at some point, the easiest resolution is to marry them off.
Early child marriages have been reported more in struggling families where many were rendered jobless and pushed further back into poverty and marrying off their girls to reduce their financial burden.
According to reports, schools were a safety net for many children, they would be kept occupied with studies, having less time to loiter around to get pregnant, and be seen as a burden by families facing economic hardship.
The UN’s population agency, UNFPA, said in April that as many as 13 million more child marriages could take place over the next 10 years because of a six-month Covid-19 shutdown of schools and family planning services combined with increasing economic hardship.
Children born to poor and illiterate parents are more likely to fall victim to early marriages especially during this pandemic where families are having financial difficulties arising their failure to cater to all the children.
Research has it that child marriages are known to lead to instances of domestic violence and even human trafficking and are also likely to result in malnourished mothers and children.