Whether at risk for early and forced marriage or already married, millions of girls and their communities are impacted by this practice around the world each year. Champions like Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Aaron Schock (R-IL) in the U.S. House and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) in the U.S. Senate are working to raise awareness and demonstrate the bipartisan commitment that exists to ending early and forced marriage. As we recently reported, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act in May. House champions have followed suit by introducing the Senate-passed bill yesterday. While we do not expect the House to take action on the bill given the political dynamics on Capitol Hill, this bipartisan introduction is yet another signal that Congress wants tangible action in the lives of millions of girls.
The Washington Post also highlighted the issue on its front page today by discussing the dire prospects girls in Niger are facing, including poverty, lack of education, food insecurity, and maternal death. Girls in Niger are now at an even higher risk of being forced to marry at an even earlier age for their family’s survival. This article highlights the situation too many girls around the world are facing and concerted and strategic action is needed today to protect their sexual and reproductive rights and health.
Now it is time for the U.S. Administration, in partnership with others, to take the action needed to end this practice and give every girl the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Only by addressing the issue of early and forced marriage can the cycle of poverty and gender inequality be broken and only then will countries like Niger be able to grow and develop into prosperous and just nations.