The number of children living in extreme poverty is expected to skyrocket by the end of the year, with 122 million to 142 million more children’s families unable to make ends meet. Many of those families could find themselves offering their young daughters for marriage in the coming years.
International children’s rights advocates warned Monday that child marriage is on the rise in poor countries around the world, with the UN estimating that the coronavirus pandemic and the economic hardships it’s caused could ultimately drive families to marry off 13 million more girls than they did before the international crisis began.
The news comes after years of progress in the fight against child marriage, which desperate families often turn to in developing countries in order to obtain a dowry for their daughters and save money by shifting the responsibility for feeding and clothing a young girl to the family of her new husband, who is often many years older than the girl. In return, young brides often take over farm and household work for their new husband’s families, as well as being expected to bear children at a young age.
“In no situation is it consensual,” UNICEF, the U.N.’s children’s aid agency, tweeted earlier this month as part of the UN’s 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls.