The ongoing coronavirus pandemic could lead to an increase in child marriages across the globe, a charity has warned.
In a new report, Save the Children has explained that the current health crisis has put 2.5 million more girls at risk of early marriage by 2025, while as many as one million are expected to become pregnant in 2020.
Why could child marriages increase?
The increase in child marriages is expected to come as a result of the economic fallout from the pandemic, which is increasing poverty, forcing girls out of school and into work or marriage.
Girls who live in parts of South Asia, Africa and Latin America are the most vulnerable, Save the Children has warned.
A total of 78.6 million child marriages have been prevented over the last 25 years, but the pandemic has seen progress to end the practice slow “to a halt.”
Additionally, Girls Not Brides - a group that campaigns to end child marriages - told the BBC it was seeing a similar trend, with shrinking economies and school closures contributing to the problem.
How many girls are at risk?
According to Save the Children, around 12 million girls become victims of early marriage every year, with its latest report predicting this number will rise rapidly over the next five years.
An estimated 500,000 girls are at risk of being forced into child marriages in 2020 alone, with up to one million expected to become pregnant. This number could reach 61 million by 2025 if no action is taken.
Bill Chambers, president and CEO of the charity, said, “The pandemic means more families are being pushed into poverty, forcing many girls to work to support their families and to drop out of school - with far less of a chance than boys of ever returning.
"A growing risk of violence and sexual exploitation combined with growing food and economic insecurity also means many parents feel they have little alternative but to force their young daughters to marry older men."
The report also found that the pandemic has led to increased reports of gender-based violence across the world, with an estimated one in 10 girls having experienced rape or sexual violence.
Furthermore, the UN expects an additional two million cases of female genital mutilation to take place over the next 10 years because of the pandemic.