Urgent Alert: United States: Urge the U.S. House Of Representatives to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act before Congress adjourns

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Date: 
6 Dec 2010

Equality Now commends the United States Senate on passage of The International Protecting Girls By Preventing Child Marriage Act Of 2009 and urges The U.S. House Of Representatives to pass this legislation

In November 2009, Equality Now issued an urgent alert calling on the United States 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 now unanimously passed through the Senate and we are hopeful that the U.S. House of Representatives will pass the Act before Congress adjourns for the end of the year.

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 focused on 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. Similarly, our Women’s Action 31.3 on child marriage in Saudi Arabia focused on the case of 12-year-old Fatima who was married by her father to a 50-year-old man who already has a wife and ten children.

What You Can Do: 

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 members of Congress to take urgent action to pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the end of the year. Click here to find your Representative's contact information.

Letters: 

[add address of Congressperson]

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, including death in some cases. 

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.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S. 987/H.R. 2103) authorizes U.S. foreign assistance programs to prevent child marriage and provide educational and economic opportunities for girls around the world.  The legislation has unanimously passed through the Senate.  I urge you, as a member of Congress, to ensure that the U.S. House of Representatives will pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the end of the year.

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,