Last month, the United States Senate passed the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (S.414). This is an important step in upholding the rights of adolescent girls around the world and a critical step in preventing the harmful practice of child marriage, which often has devastating consequences for girls, their families and their communities.
It is estimated that worldwide there are over sixty million child brides. It has been reported that child marriage disproportionately affects the poor rural communities in the developing world, and helps perpetuate the cycle of poverty. When a girl marries before her eighteenth birthday, she has a greater probability of the following:becoming a victim of domestic violence; being deprived of education; and being exposed to health risks associated with early sexual activity including sexually trasmitted disease and complications from early child birth.
The legislation expresses the sense of Congress that: “…(1) child marriage is a violation of human rights and its prevention and elimination should be a U.S. foreign policy goal; and (2) expanding educational opportunities for girls, economic opportunities for women, and reducing maternal and child mortality are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and U.S. global health and development objectives, including efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS. Authorizes the President to provide assistance, including through multilateral, nongovernmental, and faith-based organizations, to prevent child marriage in developing countries and to promote the educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of girls and women.” The legislation is now before the U.S> House of Representatives for consideration.
This legislation passed due to the tireless efforts of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The legislation passed unanimously, which means all 100 senators supported passage of the bill. For further information on this legislation, you can visit www.congress.org.
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