Journal : Global Times (Chinese) Date : Author : CORRESPONDENT ZHEN XIANG Page No. : NA


According to a despatch in the New York Times on the 8th, UNICEF released a report that day showing that under the novel corona epidemic, the problem of child marriage in various parts of the world, especially in developing countries, is taking a downturn.

Child marriage refers to marriages under the age of 18. World Health Organization data shows that in developing countries, pregnancy complications and childbirth are the main causes of death among girls aged 15 to 19. In addition, after child marriage, teenage brides become pregnant and give birth, and the risk of their newborn babies being still born is higher. Many cases of child marriage are not included in official statistics. UNICEF estimates that there are currently about 650 million women who marry as children, and 10 million girls are expected to be at risk of child marriage in the next ten years.

Experts pointed out that the new corona epidemic has exacerbated factors that promote child marriage, such as more drop  outs of school, experiencing financial difficulties, the death of parents, resulting in more early pregnancies.  In some cases, a girl is forced by her parents or elders to marry a man much older than herself. At the same time, child rights activists worry that during the COVID-19 pandemic, some girls have difficulty in making a living due to lack of schooling, and early marriage will become their only option to maintain their livelihood.

According to child rights organizations, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi and other countries have long-standing child marriage problems. The child marriage rate in these areas has recently increased sharply, and the teenage pregnancy rate in some areas has even gone thrice the earlier figure.

Take Nepal as an example. The legal age for marriage in this country is 20. However, many Nepalese people traditionally believe that girls should get married earlier. In some places, old people will find ways to obtain fake birth certificates for girls at home. False reporting of age is even higher so that they can marry earlier, and, sadly it is believed,  happier.

Under the new corona epidemic, Nepal’s two major economic pillars of overseas labor remittances and domestic tourism have suffered heavy losses, which has led to a further increase in child marriages. A Nepalese parent said that his daughter married someone else before finishing the tenth grade. If she could receive more education, her daughter would have more chances in life in the future. However, that is indeed difficult for her family under the influence of the epidemic, and there is really no way to do so anymore. There are also Nepalese families who are very poor, and some of the girls in the family are not educated at all, so their only hope of making a living lies in getting married as soon as possible. However, when someone tries to prevent child marriage in the village, it arouses anger and even evokes threats. Even if the problem is reported to the local police, the police rarely take effective measures. Stakeholders say the number of child marriages in some parts of Nepal has doubled during the epidemic.

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