An estimated 500,000 more girls are at the risk of being forced into child marriage globally and as many as one million more are expected to become pregnant in 2020 as a result of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a study from the Save the Children revealed the information.
The increase comes on top of the previously estimated rates of child marriage, which already anticipated 12 million girls being forced into marriage this year.
While this increase represents a conservative estimate, it marks a significant surge in child marriage rates with an expected spike in teenage pregnancies and school dropouts to follow. The increase is set to reverse 25 years of progress, which saw child marriage rates decline.
Up to 2.5 million additional girls are expected to marry over the next five years and together with the 58.4 million child marriages taking place on average every five years, this amounts to a staggering 61 million child marriages by 2025, said a press release from Save the Children International.
“The pandemic means more families are being pushed into poverty, forcing many girls to work to support their families, to go without food, to become the main caregivers for sick family members, and to drop out of school—with far less of a chance than boys of ever returning,” said Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International.
According to the report, 78.6 million child marriages have been prevented over the last 25 years across the globe but even before the coronavirus, progress to end the practice had slowed to a halt.
The report titled ‘Global Girlhood Report 2020: COVID-19 and progress in peril’ was released on October 12. Despite significant progress in recent years, Bangladesh has the highest prevalence of child marriage in South Asia and ranks among 10 countries in the world with the highest levels, said UNICEF on Wednesday.
A new UNICEF report calls for accelerated action to end child marriage in Bangladesh by 2030. The report “Ending Child Marriage: A Profile of Progress in Bangladesh” was launched on Wednesday at a virtual event which was attended by representatives from the UN, the Government, Development Partners and Adolescent Clubs.