Thousands of young girls in families across Asia are being forced into marriages because of the poverty followed by the coronavirus.
Child marriage has been common for a very long time in traditional communities from the Indonesia archipelago to India, Pakistan, and Vietnam but the numbers had decreased as charities tried to help by encouraging access to education and women’s health services.
The improvements are now being ignored as parents have suffered job losses, a result of the coronavirus, and cannot feed their families.
Shipra Jha, head of Asia engagement, at NGO Girls Not Brides stated that the progress they have made thus far will go to waste.
She also went on to say that child marriage is a result of gender inequality and patriarchal structures.
Poverty, lack of education, and insecurity result in child marriage even in stable times therefore when there is a pandemic the problem becomes worse, this was stated by the charity.
Across the world, the UN (United Nations) stated that an estimated 12 million girls are wed yearly before the age of 18.
The UN has warned that unless there is urgent action taken to overcome the economic and social impact of the virus then there will be an additional 13 million child marriages that will take place in the next decade.
Hard data is yet to be collected but Asian charities state that tens of thousands have already been affected in child marriages.
Muskaan a 15-year-old girl stated that she is being forced to marry the 21-year-old boy from next door, by her parents who are street cleaners in the Indian city Varanasi, because they have sick other children to feed.
The young girl stated that she fought as much as she could but eventually had to give in.
An NGO called Save the Children has warned that violence against girls could become more of a threat than the virus.
While children are forced out of school, young girls are the ones affected most.
At the beginning of August 275 former global leaders, education experts, and economists urged governments or organisations to make sure that the coronavirus does not create a COVID generation who are robbed of their education and a fair chance in life.
Most girls find being at school as a safe space for them to be, this is a form of defense against forced marriage.
In India, activists state that there is an increase in forced marriages because families see this as a solution to financial instability without realising the repercussions for young women.
Another thing they have realized is that the other party offers money or assistance to the families in exchange or the young girls.
Other fears that families have their family’s reputation will be tarnished because the schools are closed and children are bored therefore they may start engaging in sexual activities and fall pregnant outside of wedlock.
Indonesia’s family planning agency has warned the nation that there will be a large baby boom early next year because of the virus, and they are emphasizing the use of contraceptives.
An 18-year-old girl who is still underage has already been married twice.
The first time she got married, forcefully, because she was seen standing with a man who was not her relative, which is a taboo in West Sulawesi, Indonesia, where she lives.
The community stated that she should marry the man beside him being 30 years older than her.
She was able to escape that marriage and she found love but could not peruse her career, of becoming a flight attendant, because of the lack of family planning she became pregnant and her family insists that she gets married to the 21-year-old father.
Indonesia, which has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, raised the legal age for marriage from 16 to 19 for both sexes, trying to tackle the problem, last year.
The loophole is that local religious courts can approve such unions.