COVID Will Lead to More Child Marriage - What can be done?
By Sancia John
The instrumental influence of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to permeate the globe with tense governmental departments and unfortunate economies. However, a crucial matter that has been overlooked is the dramatic surge in child marriage. In several of the world’s regions, a crisis initiates a huge rise in child marriages. After roughly 10 years of civil dispute, Syria and the countries in its proximity had rates of early child marriage at appalling rates that were approximately four times greater than before the war began (Hassan, 20).
As governments persistently address COVID 19 and its profound impact on economies around the world, it is fundamental that they utilize various methods and procedures to mitigate the operators of early child marriage. This is pivotal for countries recuperating from the calamitous results of battles since a lost generation of young females will ultimately induce diminished development due to the insufficiency of active involvement in reconstructing their regions (Hassan,20).
According to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF), child marriage is the legitimate or unofficial alliance of a child under the age of eighteen and another child. The U. N. Population Fund predicted that 13 million child marriages would occur through this decade due to the pandemic in addition to the annual average of 12 million child marriages. Systemic gender incongruity undermines the essence of early child marriages. Around the world, about 20% of women are married before reaching 18 years of age, and nearly 82% of child marriages involve girls (Hassan,20).
Gender inequality is stimulated by economic instability, security issues, and the deficiency of educational opportunities. The most frequent incentive among these impetuses is economic security. Poverty and economic uncertainty can coerce families towards the erroneous custom of child marriage to cope with their predicament. This decision is often portrayed as a significant stride towards survival for a family and the wedded child (Hassan,20).
Furthermore, the absence of physical protection is a decisive factor in child marriage in war-torn countries and refugee camps. Such families presume that marriage is the proper decision for refugee girls since they believe that an able man can defend and shelter their daughters. However, in reality, this conjecture is contrary to what typically leads to. Espoused girls that are wedded early face a greater risk of peril than single girls due to complications from pregnancy and greater feasibility of domestic violence. Schools typically accommodate girls with a wide variety of resources and opportunities that should empower them to progress in the academic realm and dissuade them from becoming wedded as a young child (Hassan,20).
Cultural gender norms that place girls as a housewife or caregiver can dissuade a family from allowing their daughter to complete her education. In these scenarios, girls are at a much higher risk of early child marriage. Providing girls with education is crucial to countering early child marriage because schools can provide an arena of empowerment, limits girls’ perceived dependence on a spouse for a stable future, and provide the prospect of a future career (Hassan,20).
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a trajectory in early child marriage by intensifying poverty and causing families to wed their girls in an untimely manner to alleviate their financial dilemma. Economic burdens have become more critical in war-torn and refugee environments as well. Recent accounts have indicated that Syrian refugees are performing early child marriage with encompassing regions as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan for economic welfare (Hassan,20).
Ezgi Yaman is a highly committed female leader who initiated End Child Prostitution and Trafficking in Turkey. She explicitly states, “We have heard of cases where Syrian families are selling their daughters to marry—either formally or informally—Turkish men. … To have one less plate at the table. We heard several cases where the family couldn’t afford to pay the rent to the landlord, so they say: ‘We are giving you our daughter,’” (Hassan,20).
Although marrying a daughter to someone with the financial conditions to accommodate medical aid, especially health insurance, is portrayed as a manner of protecting a girl’s health during a crisis, this is usually not what happens in reality. Girls faced surmounting health risks in child marriages due to complications in early pregnancies, the deprivation of access to sufficient healthcare, and increased vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases (Hassan,20).
School closures associated with the COVID-19 crisis are also stimulating early child marriage. Due to these closings, organizations with a mission of halting child marriage are unable to locate vulnerable populations prone to child marriage. This in-accessibility could ultimately cause families to perceive financial stability through marriage over education (Hassan,20).
Furthermore, school closings compound many family’s financial hardships since several schools provide food to students whose families endure economic quandaries. Although some schools have online classes, many families are unable to afford the technology required to obtain these resources. There is also a shortage of governmental and non-governmental initiatives with a wholistic and multi-cultural response to child marriage. Remaining docile until the pandemic has ceased will not delay child marriage’s instrumental influence but will augment its impact (Hassan,20).
Preventive measures to mitigate the impact of child marriage must be complied with. For instance, NGOs and the government should actively distribute academic and medical resources to girls and undermine the mentality that child marriage is the solution to alleviating the financial and cultural boundaries they face. Furthermore, an early marriage hotline should be devised for girls at risk of early child marriage throughout the pandemic. Remote learning in regions without access to the Internet should be maintained through the dispersal of academic content vial mail and lectures via radio. Governments and schools should also provide food to populations that endure food insecurity to alleviate the financial stress stemmed from school closures on the vulnerable. Furthermore, schools should initiate resilient learning schedules to accommodate who have undergone early child marriage or became pregnant during the pandemic. In addition, the government should provide revenue to families with losses due to the pandemic. This could cause many families to avoid the prospect of early child marriage as a financial answer (Hassan,20).
For the refurbishing of countries that have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, women are a vital constituent in the discussion and advocacy of their rights. Halting the custom of child marriage requires a cultural transformation in communities and feasible and sustainable alternatives. Although the task we face is daunting, addressing child marriage and its colossal influence is imperative. Without prolific endeavors and the appropriate intervention, numerous countries will regress to their original cycles of discord and myriads of girls will be stripped of their future (Hassan,20).
 Hassan, Joud Monla. “COVID Will Lead to More Child Marriage-What Can Be Done?” Making Peace Possible, United States Institute of Peace, 14 Aug. 2020, www.usip.org/publications/2020/08/covid-will-lead-more-child-marriage-what-can-be-done.