Since the pandemic began, health has not been the only thing young girls have had to worry about. The government’s 1098 helpline received over 5,000 calls in the last few months reporting incidents of early marriage; 91% of these cases involved girls below the age of 18 years. Imagine that! This is a reversal of the work of many civil society organisations and government departments over the years that had managed to bring down the rate of child marriages in India.
Imagine being a 15 year old and fearing that you will be married off. Why? Because, it’s happening to every other girl around you.
Nearly 1.5 million girls in India are still married before they turn 18. Young girls are forced to drop out of school, have children while they are children themselves and face certain violence through their lives. Pandemic has just worsened this situation. Loss of jobs, increase in economic crisis, coupled with closure of school have led to an increase in early marriage of adolescent girls as parents choose to reduce their financial burden.
India is leading when it comes to the number of early marriages in the world. 1 in 4 girls in India get married before the legal age.
There is a widespread acceptance that girls can be married at an early age, not just because of economic and physical security, and also as an attempt to confirm her social identity. However, in reality getting married before age does destroy her childhood and poses higher risk of pregnancy complications and her own growth is never optimal. Hence, there is a higher need of awareness in society, especially during pandemic.
Breakthrough is trying to do everything to ensure that we maintain the societal fabric strong and don’t have millions of young girls living their lives in a society where they are constantly told that their being, sense of self, rights and wishes don’t matter.
We are navigating through this pandemic taking inspiration and are immensely proud of the journey our adolescents and youth are taking. Amidst the hopelessness that surrounds us, we’ve been reminded that hope is a verb and the only prerequisite to change is us.