The Global Impact of Covid-19 on the Rights of Women and Girls

The impact of Covid-19 extends beyond the consequences on our physical health.

With schools closed and families struggling economically due to the pandemic, charities across the globe are expressing concerns about the increase in forced marriage, particularly amongst girls under the age of eighteen.

Concerns about forced marriage are just one of the devastating consequences that Covid-19 has had on the rights of women and girls around the world.

What is Forced marriage?

Forced Marriage is defined by the UK Government Forced Marriage Unit as a marriage without the consent of one or both parties and where duress is a factor. In a forced marriage one or both spouses either do not, or cannot, consent to the marriage.

Forced Marriage is regarded as:

  • An abuse of human rights
  • A form of domestic violence
  • A form of violence against men and women
  • Against the law

What is the impact of Forced Marriage?

Forced marriage has devastating consequences.

Being forced into marriage usually results in a loss of educational opportunities and puts girls and women at increased risk of poor health, poverty and abuse.

Is this a concern in the UK?

Yes. In the UK local authorities are concerned that many at-risk children are not interacting with professionals who should be able to spot the signs of forced marriage and support them.

It is expected that as lockdown eases, there will be an increased pressure on local authorities to respond to forced marriages that have taken place during the pandemic.

What is the Global Perspective?

Globally, a report from humanitarian aid organisation World Vision has found that an additional two million girls could be at risk of child marriage in the next two years because of the pandemic.

The charity Sisters for Sisters expressed concerns over young girls being forced into marriage before the age of eighteen as families struggle to cope with increased financial pressures due to the side effects of Covid-19. This is especially problematic in countries such as Nepal, where scarce resources have become increasingly limited as a result of Covid-19.

How can I Learn More?

  • The Ann Craft Trust have resources about how to spot the signs of forced marriage
  • Discover our ‘My Marriage, My Choice’ research with the University of Nottingham. The research aimed to provide guidance to equip professionals to effectively deal with forced marriages of children, adults at risk and men and women with learning disabilities.
  • The Ann Craft Trust offers training for local authorities, safeguarding leads, the police and teachers about how to understand the legislation relating to forced marriage, how to spot the signs and record concerns.
  • The UK Government have produced guidance on recognising forced marriage and how to access support.
  • IKWRO is a UK Women’s Rights Organisation providing free resources and support to girls and young women who are survivors of abuse such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic abuse. Advice can be provided in a range of languages.