Wills Point, USA (ANS) – COVID-19 has triggered a “shadow pandemic” of sexual abuse, violence and exploitation against girls, a shocking new report reveals on International Day of the Girl Child, October 11.
More than ever, girls face multiple threats to their safety, including sexual predators online, sex trafficking, and forced child marriage, says the report Young Victims Remain Hidden in the Pandemic’s Shadow (http://www.gfa.org/press/girls) by mission organization GFA World (www.gfa.org). International Day of the Girl Child is an annual awareness event.
In more than 130 countries — including the U.S. — it’s legal for girls to marry under the age of 18. In North Carolina and Alaska, a girl can marry at 14 if she’s pregnant. In North Carolina, a 57-year-old man applied to marry a 17-year-old girl, the report says.
Worldwide, COVID-19 is accelerating a “global crisis for girls,” with surging joblessness and poverty putting pressure on struggling parents to marry off their daughters in their mid-teens or younger, the report says.
Millions of Girls ‘Exposed to Exploitation’
Globally, national lockdowns have disrupted schooling for millions of girls, and left them exposed to exploitation and greater risk of getting pregnant.
Save the Children predicts a “dramatic surge in child marriage and adolescent pregnancy.” The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in girls and young women ages 15-19.
Governments around the world must do more, GFA World says, to protect girls from forced marriage so they can finish school and choose their own path in life when they become adults.
‘Protect Innocent Girls Now’
“If we fail to protect innocent girls now, we’ve failed an entire generation,” said GFA World Founder K.P. Yohannan (also known as Metropolitan Yohan).
The Dominican Republic — a Caribbean island nation — recently banned marriage under the age of 18, a move it’s hoped will protect girls there and could encourage other nations to follow.
In the U.S. and other countries, girls are increasingly victims of online sexual exploitation. A 14-year-old girl who sent a classmate a naked video of herself attempted suicide after it was posted on a porn website and viewed by other students. “Failing to stay safe online could entrap a girl in years of abuse,” the report says.
Lifeline for Girls at Risk
In developing nations, GFA World and other organizations sponsor thousands of girls at risk, enabling them to go to school, making sure they don’t go hungry, and mentoring them. GFA World says it helps girls “to show them God’s love.”
“It’s more vital than ever to provide girls with safe, nurturing environments and to bring justice and aid to those who’ve been abused,” says the report. “The pandemic will have years of consequences but, with God’s help, we can prevent it from destroying girls’ lives.”