WILLS POINT, TX — 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, Oct. 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 Gospel for Asia (GFA World). 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, Gospel for Asia (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’
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, Gospel for Asia (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. Gospel for Asia (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.”
PHOTO CUTLINE: GIRLS FACE ‘SHADOW PANDEMIC’ OF SEXUAL ABUSE: COVID-19 has triggered a “shadow pandemic” of sexual abuse and exploitation against girls, a new report reveals on International Day of the Girl Child, Oct. 11. The report — Young Victims Remain Hidden in the Pandemic’s Shadow (http://www.gfa.org/press/girls) — by Gospel for Asia (GFA World)gives shocking insights into child marriage and online exploitation.
About GFA World
Gospel for Asia (GFA World)is a leading faith-based global mission agency, helping national missionaries bring vital assistance and spiritual hope to millions across the world, especially in Asia and Africa, and sharing the love of God. In GFA World’s latest yearly report, this included thousands of community development projects that benefit downtrodden families and their children, free medical camps conducted in more than 1,200 villages and remote communities, over 4,800 clean water wells drilled, over 12,000 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 260,000 needy families, and teaching providing hope and encouragement available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry. GFA World has launched programs in Africa, starting with compassion projects in Rwanda. For all the latest news, visit our Press Room at https://gfanews.org/news/.