In November 2009, Equality Now issued an urgent alert calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S. 987/H.R. 2103) (the “Act”). Major provisions of the Act were included in the State Department Reauthorization Bill which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009. The Act has garnered a great deal of support in the Senate and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and we are hopeful that the legislation will be passed into law this year.
TAKE ACTION! 
This landmark legislation recognizes that child marriage is an obstacle to development efforts, and investments in improving women’s and girls’ education, health, economic and legal status are needed to prevent this harmful practice. It authorizes U.S. foreign assistance to programs to prevent child marriage and provide educational and economic opportunities for girls around the world. In particular the Act:
- Requires 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;
- Requires the White House to create a plan to combat child marriage; and
- Integrates child marriage prevention into pre-existing development programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The severe negative physical, emotional, psychological, educational and sexual implications of child marriage on girls are well-documented. Such marriages violate the human rights of girls by excluding them from decisions regarding the timing of marriage and choice of spouse. The health-related impact of early marriage and pregnancy, according to the United Nations, includes increased risks of HIV infection, death in labor, septic abortion, stillbirths, pregnancy-induced hypertension, puerperal sepsis and obstetric fistula. Early marriage also jeopardizes girls’ right to formal education, which ends upon marriage. International research has shown that married girls have few social connections, restricted mobility, limited control over resources and little or no power in their new households, and that domestic violence is common in child marriages.
The negative impacts of child marriage on young girls in Yemen were highlighted in Equality Now’s Women’s Action 34.1  issued in November 2009 which highlighted the case of Fawziya Abdullah Youssef who was married by her father to a 25-year-old man at age 11 and died in childbirth a year later after 3 days of painful labor and a stillbirth. In our Women’s Action 34.2  we highlighted several new cases of child marriages in Yemen, including the case of 13-year-old Ilham who died in April, three days after she was married to an older man, due to excessive bleeding caused by a tear to her genitals during sexual intercourse.
As a part of efforts to curb child marriage, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the U.S. to call upon their U.S. Senators to cosponsor the Act (S. 987/H.R.2103) and urge members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ensure that the Act is taken up by the Committee in September. Click here  to find your Senators’ contact information. TAKE ACTION! 
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