Some girls in southeast Asia are constantly under a perfect storm of poverty, lack of education and human trafficking – and COVID-19 is not making things easier.

Today is International Day of the Girl Child, an annual observance day founded by the United Nations in 2012 to pull focus on the challenges girls face worldwide and promote their rights.

Destiny Rescue sees the daily hardships girls face and is standing alongside them to fight for their freedoms and opportunities. The changing social landscape of our world mid-pandemic has brought new challenges to the fight against human trafficking.

Founder and president Tony Kirwan says more girls in Thailand are now being sexually exploited on the internet because of the pandemic. Most sex establishments such as bars, massage parlours and brothels in the country are closed, creating a greater demand for sex exploitation online, such as on Facebook or Tinder.

The appetite of these paedophiles does not go away,

Tony Kirwan, Founder & International President of Destiny Rescue

In Nepal, some communities, still recovering from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015, have been thrown back into economic turmoil by the pandemic. Girls in the country can still become victims of child marriages too. Half of Nepali women, who are married and ages 20 to 49, said they were married before either age 15 or 18, according to a 2014 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund. The number of girls who fall victim to child marriages in the world easily dwarfs that of the number of boys. The country’s economic hardship coupled with gender inequality paves the path for many girls towards sex exploitation and trafficking. Despite a three-month lockdown in the country, our rescue agents have intercepted and rescued more than 100 girls and young women from trafficking across the border. In Thailand, sex exploitation was still a giant illegal trade before the pandemic. According to the global human rights agency International Labor Organization, 4.8 million people worldwide were being sexually exploited at any given time in 2016 – 99% of them were women and girls. Girls are also slightly less schooled than boys in Thailand. In 2018, 89% of girls finished primary school compared to 97% of boys, according to global anti-poverty organization The Borgen Project.

Gender inequality, poverty, lack of education and circumstances brought on by COVID-19 increase the vulnerabilities of young girls. Pair these things with the unchanging demand – men willing to pay to use and abuse girls’ bodies – and girls will continue to be victimised and exploited.

Destiny Rescue, which operates in seven countries including Thailand and Nepal, is constantly fighting to rescue girls who face these challenges. The organization’s approach to rescue is tactical and multifaceted. Girls are incredibly valuable and of infinite worth. Our rescue missions recognize their humanity and bring them out of darkness and into freedom. Our mission also values their continued freedom and flourishing. Our reintegration programs focus on healing vulnerabilities and providing opportunities. Our targeted prevention programs teach girls and communities how to protect themselves against human trafficking and exploitation. These efforts are made possible by the generosity of people like you. Your donation can bring freedom to girls around the world.