U.S. Senate takes important step forward to address the health and rights of women and girls
|For Immediate Release:
||December 2, 2010
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December 2, 2010- The Senate yesterday unanimously passed legislation that will bolster U.S. efforts to prevent the early and forced marriages of millions of girls and young women throughout the world.
The bill, introduced by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), requires the U.S. government to develop an integrated, strategic approach to combating child marriage with the goal of eliminating this practice worldwide.
The bill identifies early marriage as a human rights violation, and calls on the White House to create an action plan to combat early marriage, report on the practice as a human rights violation in the State Department Human Rights Report, and integrate prevention programs into existing U.S. development efforts.
The Youth Health and Rights Coalition lauds the passage of this legislation. By helping to protect the right of young people to make decisions about their own lives, the United States can help ensure a healthy and just future for millions of young people worldwide.
Worldwide, more than 60 million women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18- often at the encouragement of their parents and often to much older men, frequently with no say in the decision.
Beyond being a fundamental human rights violation, early marriage also instigates a myriad of educational, social, and health challenges to women who are married too young. For example, because their bodies are not yet fully developed, young brides run a very high risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth-in fact, childbirth is the leading cause of death for women ages 15-19 in the developing world. Young brides also are more likely to experience gender-based violence, and are highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. For those forced to leave school when they marry, their future economic opportunities are limited and contribute to an ongoing cycle of poverty and poor development outcomes.
“This bill makes it the policy of the U.S. government to end child marriage around the globe,” said Senator Durbin in a release. “It is a powerful statement of our priorities as a nation and something that will change the lives of millions in some of the world’s forgotten places.”
Senator Snowe added that “this legislation will help maximize the U.S. investment in foreign assistance programs and it is absolutely vital that this bill be approved by the House of Representatives and go to the President’s desk at the earliest date.”
The Youth Health and Rights Coalition (YHRC) is comprised of advocates and implementers who, in collaboration with young people and adult allies, are working to advance the sexual and reproductive rights and health (SRRH) of adolescents and youth around the world. The YHRC advocates with key decision makers to prioritize funding and support for comprehensive adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive rights and health (SRRH) policies and practices. Our goal is to ensure young people in the developing world have the SRRH information, tools, commodities, and quality services necessary to make healthy and informed choices about their own lives.
Member organizations of the coalition include: Advocates for Youth, Americans for Informed Democracy, Center for Health and Gender Equity, Family Health International, Guttmacher Institute, International Women’s Health Coalition, Pathfinder International, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Public Health Institute, Save the Children