|United States Senate Passes Legislation to Prevent Child Marriage|
Note: The following press release was issued by Girls Not Brides: The U.S. Partnership to End Child Marriage.
Washington, DC – Twenty leading non-governmental organizations today commended the United States Senate for passing the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. This is a critical step in upholding the rights of adolescent girls around the world, and in shielding them from the harmful practice of child marriage, which often has devastating consequences for girls, their families and their communities.
Under the leadership of Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), tireless champions and lead sponsors of the bill, the Senate passed the bipartisan legislation yesterday evening by a voice vote.
The legislation recognizes the practice of child marriage as a human rights violation, requires the development of a multi-year strategy to address child marriage and integrates successful interventions to prevent child marriage into existing U.S. development programs. The Senate's passage sends a strong message on the importance of prioritizing child marriage prevention as a top U.S. international development priority. The Administration has the authority to implement key provisions of the legislation and should do so immediately to support efforts to end child marriage.
"Tens of millions of women and girls around the world have lost their dignity, freedom, and health due to forced child marriage," Senator Durbin said. Not only does this despicable practice deny these women and girls an education and economic independence, it is also the root cause of many of the world's most pressing development issues — HIV/AIDS, child mortality, and abject poverty. This bill makes it U.S. government policy to end child marriage around the globe, a policy which will change the lives of millions in some of the world's forgotten places. I'm pleased that the Senate has passed this important bill and I urge the House to quickly follow suit.
The latest data show that more than 60 million girls and young women — some as young as 10 — in developing countries were married before the age of 18. If current patterns continue, 100 million more girls in the developing world will be married over the next 10 years. The costs of child marriage are high, not only for the girls themselves, but also for communities and societies as a whole.
Because their bodies are not fully developed, child brides are at a very high risk of facing complications in pregnancy and childbirth — childbirth is the leading cause of death for girls ages 15-19. Young brides are more likely to experience gender-based violence, to drop out of school and to contract sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
"I am grateful the Senate recognized the critical impact this legislation will have on the estimated 100 million girls in developing countries who are at risk of being married as children over the next decade," said Senator Snowe. "The harmful practice of forced child marriage — which is often at the root of and exacerbates many of the problems the international community is working to prevent — has deprived vulnerable girls in developing countries of their human rights; denied girls of certain education and employment opportunities; significantly expanded the risk of maternal and infant death; and increased the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and AIDS. This legislation will help maximize 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 possible."