MANILA - A new study by Save the Children showed an estimated 500,000 more girls at risk of being forced into child marriage in 2020 as a result of the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
This analysis is based on the new report "Global Girlhood 2020: COVID-19 and progress in peril", which showed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on gender equality.
The new report also showed as many as one million more are expected to become pregnant.
According to Save the Children, this new development reverses 25 years of progress in slowing down child marriage rates worldwide.
“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.
"These marriages violate girls’ rights and leave them at increased risk of depression, lifelong violence, disabilities, and even death—including from childbirth, given their bodies simply aren’t ready to bear children."
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, some 12 million girls were in early marriages, according to Save the Children.
Girls in South Asia are most affected by child marriage, followed by West and Central Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Child marriage is also expected to rise in East Asia and the Pacific, as well as in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and in North Africa.
Meanwhile, teenagers in East and Southern Africa are at highest risk of adolescent pregnancy in 2020.
According to Ashing, world leaders should come together to protect a generation of girls who may not be given opportunities due to early marriage and pregnancy.
Save the Children urges world leaders to raise girls' voices by giving them the right to safe and meaningful participation, as well as to address issues such as gender-based violence.
The group is also calling for law reform to support girls who are already married, as well as to end child marriage practices.