News Alert: United States: Equality Now Calls on the United States Senate to Pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009

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Date: 
23 Nov 2009

In November 2009, Equality Now issued Women’s Action 34.1 highlighting 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. The Action calls on the Government of Yemen to enforce the minimum age of marriage of 18 years in Yemen

Also, in June 2009, Equality Now issued a News Alert calling on the Government of Saudi Arabia to annul the marriage of 10-year-old Amneh Mohamed Sharahili to a 25-year-old man and urging the Saudi King to issue an edict banning all child marriages.

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. Equality Now continues to call on its network to urge the Yemeni and Saudi governments, respectively, to ban child marriage.

In June 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the State Department Reauthorization Bill which included major provisions of the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (H.R. 2103) (the “Act”). This landmark legislation recognizes that child marriage is an obstacle to United States’ 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 programs to prevent child marriage and provide educational and economic opportunities for girls around the world for fiscal years 2010 through 2014. The U.S. Senate must also include similar provisions from the Act (S. 987) into its version of the State Department Reauthorization Bill, which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will introduce as early as this week.

What You Can Do: 

As a part of efforts to curb child marriage in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the United States to call upon their U.S. Senators to cosponsor the Act (S. 987) and urge members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ensure that provisions from the Act are included in the Senate version of the State Department Reauthorization Bill. Click here to find your Senators’ contact information. Click here to see a list of Senate Foreign Relations Committee members.

Letters: 

[add address of Senator]

Dear

I am writing to express my deep concern about the prevalence of child marriage in a number of countries around the world and the severe negative physical, emotional, psychological, educational and sexual implications of such marriage on girls. Child marriages violate the human rights of girls by excluding them from decisions regarding the timing of marriage and choice of spouse. Health-related impacts of early marriage and pregnancy according to the United Nations include higher risks of HIV infection, death in labor, septic abortion, still births, pregnancy-induced hypertension, puerperal sepsis and obstetric fistula. Early marriage also jeopardizes girls’ right to formal education, which ends upon marriage. Moreover, 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.

I am aware that provisions from the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (H.R. 2103 and S. 987) (the “Act”), which authorizes U.S. foreign assistance programs to prevent child marriage and provides educational and economic opportunities for girls around the world, were passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on 10 June 2009 as part of the State Department Reauthorization Bill. As a Senator, I urge you to cosponsor the Act (S. 987) and ensure that provisions from the Act are included in the Senate version of the State Department Reauthorization Bill. Please take action on this issue so that efforts to eradicate child marriages, which undermine our government’s efforts to empower women around the world, can be expanded and girls around the world are given a better chance to realize their potential.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,