Girl child most affected by pandemic

Girl child most affected by pandemic
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Girl child most affected by pandemic

Highlights

Have women, particularly the girl child, in India borne the brunt during the pandemic in the last one year or so? Yes, by all means

Have women, particularly the girl child, in India borne the brunt during the pandemic in the last one year or so? Yes, by all means. Women have always suffered during calamities and wars. But, even this war against the virus has seen them suffer the most.

A study by a prominent organization working in the field, Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, whose head is also the vice president of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, has confirmed that the worsening of poverty during the pandemic may well have led to a worrying spurt in marriages of girl children in India.

The information available indicates that has happened, pushing back the progress of recent decades in reducing child marriages. Experts in the field and other social scientists are now having a relook into the issue demanding a serious study of the same. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted life for all groups in society. While attention has been focused on the direct effects of Covid-19 on hospitalisation and deaths, the ways in which it has affected the young has received less attention.

Indeed, the young have been thus far less affected by the virus than older age groups. However, studies have found that the pandemic has affected the young indirectly and it is these indirect consequences that pose a severe threat to the future of the generation, especially for the most vulnerable among them.

What is important here is that the least documented consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic and related lockdowns in India is a spurt in child and early marriage. Drawing from available insights — from research in previous humanitarian disasters and crises in India and elsewhere, as well as from reports of telephone and online surveys, and print and electronic media reports it was concluded that these young adolescents have taken the worst blow.

Alongside we have the estimates from the UN child agency UNICEF suggest that while 110 million child marriages took place globally and an estimated 25 million were averted over the decade 2011–2020, this trend may now be reversed. UNICEF now projects that up to 10 million more girls are at risk of child marriage in the decade 2021–2030 (UNICEF 2021). In contrast, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the Covid-19 pandemic will globally result in 13 million additional child marriages over the 2020-2030 decade. Of these, 7.4 million are attributable to the slowdown in programme implementation, and the remaining 5.6 million to the worldwide economic downturn through its effect on household poverty (UNFPA 2020).

Perhaps the least documented consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic and related lockdowns in India is a spurt in child and early marriage. Earlier research is indicative of the fact that every third child marriage takes place in India and the implications of these estimates for India are severe. In 2006–07 almost half (47%) of females aged 20–24 in India had married as children, that is, below the age of 18, the legal minimum. Juxtaposing the figures of its own survey over the next decade, the Aksha centre has concluded that all the good work in the field could come to naught in future. Is this 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padao' ?

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