This morning, the United States Senate stood strong for women and girls and passed The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, which seeks to increase the effectiveness of current U.S. development investments by eliminating the harmful practice of child marriage. 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.
Every day girls as young as eight or nine are forced to marry men who are often decades older. Worldwide, more than 60 million girls 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 – with no say in the decision.
Because their bodies are not yet fully developed, child brides run a very high risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth—in fact, childbirth is the leading cause of death for girls ages 15-19. Young brides also are more likely to experience gender-based violence, and are highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act seeks to increase the effectiveness of current U.S. development investments by eliminating the harmful practice of child marriage. The U.S. invests more than $450 million each year in foreign assistance
programs that are consistently undermined by the impacts of child marriage. If passed by the House, the bill would:
- Require the U.S. Department of State to address the status of child marriage in countries with high rates of child marriage in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
- Require the White House to create a plan to combat child marriage.
- Integrates child marriage prevention into existing development programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
By passing this crucially important bill, the Senate has taken an important step towards securing the human rights of girls everywhere. Now that the Senate has passed the legislation, the International Women’s Health Coalition and other key allies including CARE and International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) urge the U.S. House of Representatives to quickly pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the end of the year.