Why thousands of school-aged girl children are getting married in India

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School-aged girl child marriage in Bangladesh. Thousands of school-aged girl children are forced into marriage across Asia – India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh. Photo credit: pray.interserve.org

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Why thousands of school-aged girl children are forced into marriage across Asia – India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh

 

The average legal age of girl child marriage in the mentioned countries is 17 but girls as young as 11 are forced to get married

33,000 child marriages between January and June this year have already been approved officially.

13 million more girl children will be forced into marriages in the next 10 years unless immediate action is taken to tackle the impacts of the pandemic

UN estimated that 12 million girl children are wedded every year globally before the age of 18

Girl children campaigners warn that the years of progress tackling the practice is being undone by the coronavirus pandemic

 

Thousands of school-aged girl children are being forced into marriage by their upset families across Asia – India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh because of poverty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a media report.

The legal age of the countries with a high rate of girl child marriage include Indonesia 16; India and Vietnam both 18, but there are loopholes as local religious courts can approve underage unions. UNICEF says one in 10 girls is married before the legal age in Vietnam and Bangladesh has the highest rate of marriage involving girls under age 15.

Local charity Blue Dragon said that they had seen school-aged girls as young as 14 get married and an IOM investigation recently uncovered accounts of Rohingya girls as young as 11 getting married and families forcing girls to marry early to reduce the number of mouths to feed in Bangladesh.

Indonesia’s Islamic authorities officially permitted more than 33,000 child marriages between January and June this year already, compared with a total of 22,000 for the whole of 2019, according to the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection.

 

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Girl children campaigners warn that the years of progress tackling the practice is being undone by the coronavirus pandemic.

Poverty, lack of education, and insecurity which drives school-aged girl child marriage even in stable times are being exacerbated by the current coronavirus pandemic, according to Girls Not Brides, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and the governments shifting resources from key development areas such as education, family planning and reproductive health to battle the virus scourge.

Child marriage has long been practiced as part of a tradition in communities from the Indonesian archipelago to India, Pakistan, and Vietnam, but numbers had been decreasing as numerous initiatives worked to spread awareness of its dangers and encouraged access to education and women’s health services.

Coronavirus pandemic kept about 1.6 billion children out of school when many nations imposed national lockdown to avoid its spread which increased the rate of poverty due to severe economic losses.

These improvements through the various campaign initiatives to save the school-aged girl child are being eroded as the impact of the virus causes mass job losses, leaving parents struggling to feed their families.

The NGO Girls Not Brides has also warned that unless immediate action is taken to tackle the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, 13 million more children will be forced into marriages in the next 10 years.

Globally, an estimated 12 million girl children are wedded every year before the age of 18, according to the UN.

Rolee Singh, the CEO activist of ‘’1 Step 2 Stop Child Marriage” campaign in India, affirmed that families who are barely able to make ends meet think it’s best to get their young daughters married off especially when the other party offers money or some kind of assistance in return.

Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA), Indonesia’s family planning agency,  has warned that the nation, that already home to 270 million people, could see a huge baby boom early next year due to school closures and dwindling access to contraception.

There is also a fear factor of avoiding idle teenage girls exploring their sexuality and getting pregnant thereby damaging the family’s reputation which leads to the family forcing the school-aged girl children to get married.

 

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