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House of Representatives Blocks Passage of Preventing Child Marriage Bill

Written By: Ellen Marshall
December 17, 2010

 

In a shameful political ploy at the expense of young girls, last night the House of Representatives voted against a bill that would help prevent child marriages worldwide.  After unanimously clearing the U.S. Senate with 100% bipartisan support, the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriages seemed on its way to be passed by the House and signed into law by the President. It will not become law this year.

The objection, led by House Republicans leaders, appears to have had nothing to do with substance – the thousands of lives that could have been positively impacted by enactment of the legislation – but everything to do with politics. Key Republicans drummed up opposition to the bill by concocting arguments about the high costs of implementation. However, the bill was actually an effort to make existing U.S. foreign assistance expenditures more effective. The bill would have targeted existing resources toward community-based efforts, like those of our partner APAD in Cameroun, which supports survivors of early and forced marriage to become economically independent. Importantly, the legislation would bring hope and opportunity to millions of girls who now face a life of poverty, violence, ill health, and possibly death as a result of being forced into marriage at an early age (including some as young as eight years old). The opposing Representatives also made false accusations that the legislation was a backhanded way to support pro-choice non-governmental organizations.

The Senate champion of the bill to end child marriage, Dick Durbin of Illinois, was stunned at the House defeat, stating the following:

“The action on the House floor stopping the Child Marriage bill tonight will endanger the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. These young girls, enslaved in marriage, will be brutalized and many will die when their young bodies are torn apart while giving birth. Those who voted to continue this barbaric practice brought shame to Capitol Hill.”

Having listened to the concerns of many of our partner organizations around the world, IWHC has been working to advocate for passage of this legislation for several years.  We cannot say enough about the dedication of Sen. Dick Durbin and key staff, and of Rep. Betty McCollum and her dedicated staff.  They “get it” – and gave it their all to have U.S. policy move forward to better the lives of millions of girls currently in extremely vulnerable situations.

We are also grateful to our many colleague organizations in this effort, most especially CARE and ICRW.  In addition, the work of the Elders to shed light on this problem and its members highlighting the importance of passing this landmark legislation that would have supported real solutions for girls’ lives was instrumental and sincerely appreciated.

While the House of Representative may not be on the side of making meaningful change for girls living in places where being married at a very young age is a very real risk, we’ll keep looking for opportunities to end this blatant human rights violation.

15 Responses to "House of Representatives Blocks Passage of Preventing Child Marriage Bill"
  1. Kelly says:

    The Washington Post reported that a memo was circulated saying this bill would have funded abortions and that is why it failed – have you heard this? Does anyone have a copy of the memo?

  2. Melissa says:

    This is despicable! Here's a copy of the roll call. See how your representative voted. http://www.opencongress.org/vote/2010/h/645

  3. Spazmoosifer says:

    Realize too that this is not to say that the bill won't be passed in the future. The republicans stated after the election that they were going to push to make sure that specific issues (mostly related to US financial problems) would be addressed before even taking a look at other issues, to the point where they would block any bills that came up until those issues were addressed.

    Is this necessarily what happened? Perhaps, or perhaps it was a push from the anti-abortion side of the government. Either way, I do agree that the US politicians should be fixing things at home before focusing on international issues of which they have no real direct control over.

  4. phoebe says:

    what, their issue to stop health care reform?? to give tax breaks to the wealthy saying it will fix the economy? ha ha. That is mature, "we will block any bills that come up until our issues are addressed" It is about their issues and not the economy-don't be fooled.

  5. Kelly says:

    I'm confused…how does preventing child marriage have anything to do with abortion? The two things are two separate issues in my mind. Perhaps someone just needs to "knock" some sense into these people (I don't mean using violent force).

  6. Katherine says:

    There is so much evil in the world. I wish the US was capable of fixing everything, but we just aren’t. There are people we need to worry about in our home country before we can consider helping other countries, especially when there is huge financial responsibility.

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