Advocacy statements

The rights of girls under the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • 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

46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (22 February – 19 March 2021)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children


We thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children for her excellent report, which highlights the alarming effect that the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts to suppress it, is having on the lives of children.[1]

Research shows that the lives and rights of girls and young women will be particularly affected.

School closures and higher poverty rates caused by the pandemic are predicted to increase rates of child marriage and teenage pregnancy.[2] In sub-Saharan Africa alone, over 600,000 additional girls are thought to be at risk of child marriage, and 542,000 at risk of early pregnancy.[3]

It has been estimated that between 11 and 20 million more secondary school-aged girls will be out of school by the time the crisis has ended[4].  Being forced to be at home makes children vulnerable to violence and abuse, or having to be witness to domestic violence.

States must support an intersectional and integrated approach to the pandemic, including by:[5]

The past year has clearly shown that not all people have suffered equally in this health crisis. This is particularly true for children, including all the many girls who were already experiencing discrimination, poverty, violence and lack of access to reproductive health services. We urge states to remember this fact when taking measures to tackle the pandemic.


[1] https://plan-international.org/sexual-health/how-covid-19-threatens-girls-women

[2] https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/15/how-girls-education-and-safety-will-be-harmed-covid-response

[3] https://www.povertyactionlab.org/blog/10-9-20/dayofthegirlchild-preventing-surge-teenage-pregnancies-due-covid-19

[4] https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse/girlseducation, https://malala.org/newsroom/archive/malala-fund-releases-report-girls-education-covid-19

[5] https://plan-international.org/sexual-health/how-covid-19-threatens-girls-women

Suggested academic reference

'The rights of girls under the COVID-19 Pandemic', Humanists International

WordPress theme developer - whois: Andy White London