Last month, in order to pull out an interview around gender dynamics in education during pandemic, I got into a conversation with my neighbour’s house help. During the quick chit-chat the 37-year-old domestic help said, “We will marry her (daughter) off soon so that we can be done with our responsibilities. We don’t know about our future, my husband is a rickshaw- dweller and I work as a maid in two houses. Due to the lockdown, we exhausted our savings and therefore we planned to stop our daughter’s education and decided to marry her off.”
She isn’t alone in taking up such a step. Her decision compels us to think and re-think as to how the current pandemic turned out to be a bane for many, impacting lives in an irreversible manner. Pandemic diluted with a deluge of socio-economic factors and ultimately carved itself into a villain for many of us.
A recent report by the Associated Press(AP) speaks volume in this line. A statistic quoted by AP reads, “Save the Children estimates that this year alone, nearly half a million more girls under 18 are at risk of being married off worldwide, most in Africa and Asia, but also in the Middle East.”
The report highlights that even girls as young as 8 are being compelled to marry so that he family can shove off some economic havoc.
Moreover, the United Nations in a recent report estimated that hardships resulting from COVID-19 will drive 13 million more girls to marry before the age of 18. Wouldn’t it result in early pregnancy and higher maternity deaths? Counter-answering the question-Yes, of course it will but the global leader are yet to talk about the solution for it.
Reportedly, parents receive dowry for their young daughters- perhaps a bit of land or livestock clinging to which they can earn an income, or sometimes families take money in cash and promise to take over financial responsibilities of the young bride. The young girl in turn takes over the household chores or the labour work on farms.
As far as the Indian scenario is concerned, the ChildLine India, an NGO, recorded 5,214 early marriages in just four months of lockdown between March and June 2020 across India. These numbers are most likely a vast undercount for many cases aren’t even reported.
In a shocking turn of events, a 13-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh informed police that her unemployed father compelled her to get married. The marriage was stopped but not before he took 50,000 rupees (about $675) from the to-be groom’s family.
Parents handing over their daughters to someone else because of financial troubles sounds shocking and unacceptable. The world went under the chisel for long in order to lower down the atrocities against women including early marriage, but it seems the pandemic has made us land again on square one, nullyfying all the previous efforts. After a terrible 2020 in terms of women’s issues, let’s see what 2021 holds in for gender equality.
Sanskriti Tiwari is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.