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The Threat to Female Adolescent Development from Covid-19

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In developing countries with strongly patriarchal norms, the socio-economic opportunities and choices of adolescent girls and young women often lie in a contested area, subject to the influence of both traditional institutions and the modern state and its partners. While the patriarchal institutions may advocate traditional gender roles – manifested in the form of early childbirth, high fertility, and low rates of female economic participation outside of the home – the state and its partners can, potentially, expand opportunities for female education and training, and protect child and adolescent rights by enacting laws and strengthening law enforcement institutions. The tension between these two sets of institutions has long been apparent to policymakers and practitioners in developing countries. In recent months, however, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is changing the balance between them in ways that, as yet, are not well-understood.

In this policy brief, we attempt to shed light on this emerging issue by investigating the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the practice of female early marriage in Bangladesh.

Authors: Amrit Amirapu, Niaz Asadullah, and Zaki Wahhaj

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