US Senate Passes Child Marriage Prevention Legislation

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

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Pathfinder International: A young girl in school in Ethiopia.

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Christine S.

Morgan G.- girls are forced to marry because there is not enough food to feed the family, so might as well marry the girls off young. It is not healthy for young girls to be forced into motherhood, especially in parts of the world that have such poor access to maternal care. The girls don't go to school, they become virtual slaves, producing babies until their husbands tire of them and marry an even younger girl....

Nic F.
Nic F.4 years ago

Having contributed to Ethiopiaid, I know how primitive conditions are in that country for expectant mothers and how many woman lose their babies as a result, unable to get to a hospital to get the care they need. The fact that some of these mothers are so young only makes it worse. I'm so glad that Alemnesh has being able to avoid this fate. Helping the impoverished families of such girls so they don't need to "sell" or bethroth their daughters at such an early age would go a long way towards putting an end to this, worldwide.

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M.4 years ago

Maybe we should not be sticking our noses into other countries cultures, but when it comes to little girls their human rights are taken away, and especially if they come from poor families. They must be terrified when forced into marriage at such young ages, and having children, when they are on children themselves.

bj Jung
bj Jung4 years ago

I think the issue here is not arranged marriages but rather the young age that some girls are forced into marriage. Where a child is forced to marry a much older man and often results in a child raising another child. This is often done because of the financial situation of the girls family. What a heavy price to pay for being raised in a poor family and being a girl!

Monica D.
Monica D.4 years ago

This sounds like good news.

Bente S.
Bente S.4 years ago

Thank you.

monica r.
monica r.4 years ago

If you are asking why the UN does not support this, then remember that the UN has passed a resolution that it is an international crime to say anything negative about Islam.

Therefore their own resolution prevents them from speaking against this human rights violation. Better to ruin the lives of countless girls and women than to offend Islam in any way.

Rose Becke4 years ago

I agree with Edith B

Morgan G.
Morgan Getham4 years ago

Moral of the story: We have no business sticking our noses in everybody else's business. Telling that woman's country that what her parents did was wrong would have been a great injustice. We have no right to be either policemen OR moral judge to the entire world.