Exacerbating the phenomenon of early marriages in Asia

Coronavirus and the suspension of education are pushing the poor to get rid of their daughters by marriage

Child marriages have been on the increase since schools closed.


The phenomenon of child marriage, prevalent in Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Vietnam, has receded thanks to campaigns to expand access to education and health services, but the "Covid-19" epidemic, which has destroyed many jobs, threatens to worsen the situation.

The risk is great, today, because many parents lose their jobs as a result of the health crisis, and their inability to meet the needs of their children.

"All the progress we have made in the last decade will be at stake," says Shibra Ja, in charge of the Asian branch of the non-governmental organization "Girls Not Brides", adding that "Underage marriages are the result of inequality between the sexes and male systems, and all of that." Exacerbated in light of the (Covid-19) pandemic ».

Every year, about 12 million girls in the world are married before reaching the age of eighteen, according to the United Nations, which calls for emergency measures to absorb the shocks that the pandemic has generated, otherwise, during the next 10 years, the world will witness an additional 13 million marriages to minors.

This phenomenon has begun to expand in Asia.

"We have seen an increase in child marriages, during the general isolation period, with the spread of unemployment, it is difficult for families to meet their needs, so she considers that it is more beneficial to marry girls," said Roly Singh, who runs the "1 Step 2 Stop Child Marrying" campaign in India.

Muskin, 15, tells her parents, who have six other children, who clean the streets of the Indian city of Varanasi, forced her to marry a 21-year-old neighbor.

"My family is poor," says the girl, with tears streaming from her eyes. "What else could they do?"

I struggled a lot, but I gave up in the end. ”

Education is the most powerful weapon against early marriages, but school closures, fearing the spread of the virus in them, deprived millions of students of education, and the situation is getting worse for girls in the poorest regions.

As for “Leah,” an 18-year-old Indonesian woman has been married twice.

After seeing her with a stranger to her family on the ultra-conservative island of Sulawesi, she was forced to marry the man more than 30 years older than her.

Then she divorced and found her life partner, but her dreams of a successful career were soon dashed.

She became pregnant during lockdown, and her family insisted that she marry the father of the 21-year-old.

"I dreamed of becoming a flight attendant," says the girl, who does not want to reveal her real name. "But she gave up her dream and ended up in the kitchen," says the girl.

Legal age

Indonesia, which has one of the highest levels in the world for underage marriages, according to UNICEF, raised the legal age for marriage from 16 to 19 years, last year.

However, religious authorities may allow some exceptions.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, for his part, announced the raising of the legal age for marriage from 18 to 21 years.

In Vietnam, where the legal age for marriage is eighteen, one girl in every 10 gets married before this age, according to UNICEF.

According to the "Blue Dragon" non-governmental organization, girls marry at the age of fourteen, and that child marriages have increased since schools closed.

The United Nations: “Every year, about 12 million girls in the world are married before reaching the age of 18”.

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