A recent report released by the UN reveals that South Asia is home to the world's highest number of child brides. According to the data, the estimated figure is about 290 million, which accounts for 45% of the global total.
The number spiked up during the COVID-19 pandemic, with financial strains and educational shutdowns in the region compelled poverty-stricken families to marry off their young daughters.
“Despite commendable progress, much more needs to be done to end child marriage. The fact that South Asia has the highest child marriage burden in the world is nothing short of tragic.”Noala Skinner, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia
“Child marriage locks girls out of learning, puts their health and wellbeing at risk and compromises their future. Every girl who gets married as a child is one girl too many.”
UNICEF South Asia published a new study about child marriage which included over 260 interviews and 120 focus group discussions across 16 locations in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, according to which some of the main reasons behind child marriage included – increased financial pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic, girls being out of school during the pandemic, many parents viewed girls as a burden.
They saw marriage as the best option for those with limited options to study during lockdowns and perceptions that girls might ‘misbehave’ when not in school.
At the UN’s South Asian regional forum, participants discussed solutions to tackling this practice, like having dialogues with religious leaders to positively change how girls are valued by families and communities and using cash transfers to counter poverty and build resilience to financial shocks.
“In order to accelerate momentum towards our goal of ending child marriage, the measurement of outcome and impact indicators at regular intervals is essential,” Amina Mahbub, Regional Research and Evidence Lead, Plan International Asia-Pacific Regional Hub said.