Advocacy statements

Child marriage and COVID-19

  • Date / 2021
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights


International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 48th Session (13th September – 8th October 2021)

General Debate Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development


Thank you Madam President.

The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound impact on the lives and rights of girls and young women around the world.

Over the past few decades, great strides have been made in reducing the number of child marriages.[1] Now, much of this hard-won progress is under threat.

In times of economic crisis, child marriage often becomes a way to relieve financial pressure on a family. With many households facing loss of income due to COVID-19, rates of child marriages are expected to rise steeply.

Disruption to education systems is another driver of child marriage. [2] As a 12-year old girl in Uttar Pradesh State, India, described the impact of pandemic-related school closures: “the more my family saw me around, the more they discussed my marriage prospects.”[3] With less regular contact with teachers, children are deprived of an external adult authority who they could report a potential child marriage to.[4]

The UNFPA has estimated that, as a result of the pandemic, 13 million more child marriages could take place by 2030.

It is critical that the UN invest resources to ensuring that child marriage is no longer used a means to cope with the impact of the pandemic and other, future crises. That is why we are pleased to note that a resolution on “child marriage in times of crisis” will be voted on during this session.

We urge the Council to approve a robust resolution that does not compromise on the rights of women and girls and acknowledges the root causes of child marriage. In particular, the lack of mainstreamed comprehensive sexuality education and the impact of discriminatory religious laws and customary norms must not be overlooked.

Thank you.


[1] https://data.unicef.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/UNICEF-report-_-COVID-19-_-A-threat-to-progress-against-child-marriage-1.pdf

[2] https://malala.org/newsroom/archive/malala-fund-releases-report-girls-education-covid-19

[3] https://theprint.in/india/how-2-up-girls-got-their-weddings-called-off-as-child-marriage-bids-see-rise-during-pandemic/572516/

[4] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5f314dec8fa8f57acac337db/GAGE-Covid-19-Ethiopia-child-marriage.pdf

Suggested academic reference

'Child marriage and COVID-19', Humanists International

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