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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 46, New Delhi, October 31, 2020

From Vulnerability to Violence: Tragedy of Child Marriage In Times of Covid-19 | Nupur Pattanaik

Saturday 31 October 2020


by Nupur Pattanaik *

The Corona-virus despair has led to rise in child marriages globally, According to estimates by Global child Report, it has been found that it has affected gender equality. Due to acute poverty families are at the risk of vulnerability and girl child are sold in the name of marriage. The Covid-19 Pandemic has made their lives quite miserable and made them more endangered vulnerable to trafficking It also depicted that girls are affected by the humanitarian pandemic and encounter the risks of child marriage, many countries are at the possibility of child marriage, the crisis has led to an increased in gender violence all over the world with increased risk of rape and sexual violence. The paper depicts the rise in trafficking in India in the era of pandemic.

Scourge of Child Marriage

Every catastrophe makes populace plenty at risk and unprotected of child marriage, trafficking and ultimately child labour as many were the children of migrant labourers and were separated during the lockdown; there has been a surge in child marriage, and bonded labour a side-effect of the pandemic. Child Marriage and trafficking have become very prominent with the outset of the pandemic due to the vulnerability of children, poverty and lack of effective mechanisms which has made them victims of exploitation. Schools, learning centres and mid-day snacks, are slammed, closed and families are encountering financial anguish and suffering is keen to jettison what they consider their “load”. Millions of women across the world are forced to marriage but in this time of Covid-19, they are pressurised by the distressed families and made to make their female child married for surviving poverty more than the castastrophe.There are many reports that are talking on the increase in child marriages with the onset of pandemic and lockdown. A virulent and destructive amalgam of the wrathful pandemic, economic calamity, and closed schools for months is compounding and intensifying social evils like early marriages and child trafficking.

Survival of Compromises

In the Asian sphere the families being plunged into pauperisation, look child marriage as a means to survive the pandemic. Covid-19 is escalating and swelling imbalances, discrepancies and unveiling and unmasking the existing vulnerabilities and susceptibilities control, caste discrimination and capitalist extraction in India. Wrapping India, an approximated 122 million people, mainly small scale and portable dealers and migrant wage workers with remuneration, have been proffered jobless since the enforcement of the nationwide lockdown. Experiences of migrant toiling hard on the streets working under miserable conditions have been covered by the mainstream media.

While it is too premature and too complex to establish an undeniable and irrefutable uninhibited link and connection between the widespread pandemic and the rise in early marriages, factual proof from the announcements and research depict that with frontline workers and activists a positive correlation. A heightened framework of largely observed and factual writings, particularly in Asian and African region, explores the out of proportion consequences and repercussions of, and the possible and prospective interconnections between early marriage, climate change and natural disasters. Several research reports offer both conceptual insights that have global vibration and ethnological distinctiveness that are relevant to the discussions on the Covid-19 pandemic. Many catastrophes in the past have been describing the plight of people like tsunami and cyclones the pandemic is no exception. Thus, soaked and saturated in a web and matrix of poverty, dominance and control of sensuality and desirability and admixture of power, facts-based documentation from calamity-prone places suggests that untimely and pre-mature marriage needs to be labelled and communicated as a means of existence, either essential or feasible to manage or protect basic needs and rights such as food and education. The numerous cultural factors that exist in our society like taboos, stereotypes for women are magnified by the covid-19 pandemic which results in the rise in child marriages. . Incidentally, despite legal interventions over the years, India has been one of the countries to have the largest quantity of child brides globally, which is one-third of the global total, as stated by a 2019 report issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund. According to a research survey of UN Population Fund it has been found that 7.4 million marriages among poverty-stricken families have been occurring globally. Due to this crisis of pandemic, it may increase in the coming years if not properly monitored. The women and girls face the extra pain and loads of walking extensive deep distances to collect water, shortage of food, and other basic amenities and become prone to vulnerability and violence. When families advance or make progress to their terminus or landing places to the neighbouring states for work and occupation, they usually prefer their male members or the boys for the working on small jobs like farm work.,” “The young female children who are staying at home during these times are in the chances of encountering physical and mental torture and violence.” Child marriage is greatly and enormously embedded in gender imbalances, inequities and prejudicial and preferential social norms. The fundamental chauffer of child marriage– including family destitution, hindrances for girls staying in or returning to school, the prohibition around female sexuality linked to the recognised taboo of a pregnancy out of marriage, and limited health and other ancillary services and lack of information and awareness for girls and young women – are heightened and elevated during the crisis. Girls are prone to trafficking and marriage by residing in these situations of catastrophe.

Pandemic and Inequalities

The outcomes and consequences of the continuing practice of child marriage and trafficking are well-registered. It deprives girls of educational opportunities and makes them subjugated to lives of oppression, domestic violence, and childbirth, according to the UNICEF reports. According to the World Health Organization, the primary and chief genesis of decline and demise for girls ages 15 to 19 are pregnancy or childbirth-induced impediments and drawbacks. An enormous number of women across Asia are being imposed and compelled into marriage by desperate families plunged into deprivation and destitution since the universal coronavirus pandemic. The enforced violent child marriages re heightened and made females more vulnerable and prone to exploitation. To prevent and forestall such a difficulty, it’s now more paramount than ever to handle the foundation of children getting married impoverishment and damaging and deleterious gender traditions which also encourage the spread other social evils that we already see being aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, from violence, brutality to female genital mutilation. Global Institutions like UN and World Bank have been playing a vital role in curbing the violence. There is an efficient concern to address the issues of child marriage which is even more observant and watchful in implementing laws against child marriage, toil to reduce disruptions in primary and secondary education, with specific contemplation to girls, and reinforce efforts to increase awareness and sensitisation about the detrimental consequence of child marriage. If mitigating and diminishing actions to end the problem are not taken straight away, in a coordinated way by all contributors, the universal pandemic will be a catastrophe for girls.. In India, it is an illegitimate and unlawful transgression to engage and recruit a child for work. But as claimed and reported by the preceding and the latest enumeration, in 2011, 10 million of India’s 260 million kids were found to be child bonded labourers “In every calamity and dilemma situation like drought, cyclone we see a stake in child marriages. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the parents are literally eroding the girl child. UNFPA evaluates that there will be 13 million additional increase in child marriages by 2030 than there would have been preceding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19, the concealed and deceptive virus with no vaccine, closed the locked the world and changed almost everything. It was apparently inconceivable, but the truth is, it has occurred throughout the entire world. Around 5 child marriages were ceased by officials in Hyderabad within three months. The child marriage attempts were thwarted after child rights activists interceded and cautioned parents. The secret activity came to light when schools informed officials, 16 yr old girls forced to marriage there has also been states like Karnataka, Telangana and at some places, it goes on they are unreported. There are the indigenous communities who are also suffering from bonded labour and child marriage and there are several cases operating which goes undocumented.

Remedial Ways

The central government has taken steps to flatten the menace of trafficking, including passing a harder and faster rules and regulations, and preparing the states to strengthen and expand anti-human trafficking in the wake of the lockdown and there are steps to create awakening, awareness sensitisation among the milieu. The corona virus pandemic has endangered and created more people susceptible and prone to exploitation by traffickers and revealed the world’s negligence or a lack of an effective paradigm to protect them. The researchers, academic community and activists are also working and concerned about the rise in trafficking and child atrocities and marriage. Social shielding and protecting and guarding is vital in times of calamity because it helps those who are most endangered. Integrating child labour distress across comprehensive and extensive blueprint approach for education, social protection, justice, labour markets, and international human and labour rights makes a critical difference, there is a need to develop a simulation model to look into the impact of trafficking and curb the issues of slavery, bonded child labour and child trafficking related issues and concerns. The child rights should be conserved and protected and safeguarded which is a significant human rights concern. The policymakers and NGOs should come forward to the forefront and create a hotline or help centre for the girls who are at the risk of child marriage during the pandemic with access to phone health resources such as reproductive health information, there should be a facilitation of food services by schools as they are facing food insecurity due to the pandemic and becoming vulnerable, certain income grants should be provided to families with young children which can serve as an incentive to those who have lost their livelihoods during the pandemic. There should be the advancement of gender equality post-pandemic recovery strategy, girls safety and standard public health precautions should be taken into account, continued internet connectivity to remote learning regions where internet is unavailable and dispersing educational materials and lectures and ensure full fled fledged schooling. It’s time for world figureheads to come in conjunction to safeguard a generation of girls so they don’t skip out on the transforming opportunities they’re just as sanctioned to as boys, including education, and other aspects of life. They must have a place at any decision-making process that involves their rights so they can create the future they select and aspire.

* (Dr.Nupur Pattanaik, teaches Sociology, Department of Sociology at Central University of Odisha, Koraput )

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