On Wednesday, the United States Senate unanimously passed the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. This legislation will bolster US efforts to prevent the early and forced marriages of millions of girls and young women throughout the world.
The risks of early marriage
We have all seen the headlines of child brides in Yemen or forced marriage in Ethiopia. Every year, millions of young girls between 15 and 19 are married—often to much older men—with devastating consequences for their health and futures. An estimated 100 million girls will be married before 18 in the next decade if the present trends continue.
Early marriage puts the health and wellbeing of girls like Alemnesh (see video below) at risk. If we can prevent early marriage, we can reduce the number of girls and young women who die every year in childbirth, increase their opportunities for education, and support the rights of girls and young women to make decisions about their futures.
Praise for the legislation
A number of groups focused on ending early marriage in the developing world released statements applauding this move and encouraging the House of Representatives to quickly follow suit. The Youth Health and Rights Coalition said that the bill, introduced by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin and Senator Olympia Snowe, “requires the US government to develop an integrated, strategic approach to combating child marriage with the goal of eliminating this practice worldwide.”
In a press release, Senator Durbin said, “[This bill] is a powerful statement of our priorities as a nation and something that will change the lives of millions in some of the world’s forgotten places.”
Senator Snowe added that “this legislation will help maximize the US 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.”
Take action to end child marriage
You can help by taking one (or both!) of these actions today:
Pathfinder International: A young girl in school in Ethiopia.
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