The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all in some or the other way and it just does not seem that the effects of this deadly virus are going to end anytime soon. It led to lockdowns, job losses, mental health issues and whatnot. All these have led to an uncertain future for the majority of the population.
But one of the major ways in which the virus is gobbling up the future of India’s young is Child Marriages and Trafficking.
Child Marriages in India
India is notorious for its Child Marriage practices which have been customs since time immaterial. Legally, it is a punishable offence for girls under the age of 18 to marry in India but just like other laws which are against the age-old customs, this too is ignored making India the home of the largest number of child-brides in the world. When a girl is married off at an early age, her entire future is compromised. She is denied education which is the only way for her to become independent. She also has limited knowledge about the world to bring about a change and hence this cycle continues.
Child Labour in India
With the schools being closed, the mid-day meal programme has taken a big hit. This program, though criticized at every level, has been very successful in making parents from marginalized communities send their children to school. As the school takes care of at least a part of the food needs of the child, the parents don’t mind that they are being taken to school. The lockdown closed schools and this led to children staying at home. With limited food to put on the table or rather the floor, parents faced a tough choice. Many young boys were sent to factories in far-off places by child traffickers by promising money to the parents. More than 10 million child labourers are employed and it won’t be difficult to spot a child working in unsafe conditions in just about every corner of India.
The impact of COVID-19 on Child Marriage and Child Labour
A children’s helpline, Childline, has reported a multifold increase in help calls related to the early marriage of girls this year compared to 2019. Millions of people were out of jobs and migrant labourers walking towards their home was making it to every news portal. But the side effect of this has been that these people who lost their jobs now had to feed their families without the meagre wages they depended on. Marrying off a girl child to ensure their well- being as well as the reduced expense for weddings during the lockdown with having to invite fewer people, were a motivation for the parents. The lockdown restrictions were a boon for saving money spent on big fat weddings.
Who would’ve thought that the pandemic could impact children in such a big way? The people in affluent neighbourhoods are complaining about online classes but there is a certain stratum of society which would do anything to get an opportunity to change their lives.