Durbin Introduces Bill to Eliminate the Practice of Child Marriages Overseas
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation today which seeks to end the harmful practice of child marriage oversees. The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act would require the U.S. Government to develop an integrated, strategic approach to reduce, and ultimately end, the practice of child marriage.
“As I’ve travelled the world, I’ve always thought the way a country treats women and children says a lot about its culture and society,” Durbin said. “Young women and girls who are forced to marry face serious health risks and are often far less educated then their unmarried peers. This bill will bring this harmful practice to an end and give millions of girls around the globe hope for a better future.”
An estimated 60 million girls in the developing world, under the age of 18, are married – a number that could increase by 100 million if the current trend continues. Child marriage is most common in sub-Saharan Africa, parts of South Asia and the Middle East.
Instances of child marriage greatly undermine larger U.S. foreign assistance efforts due to their negative impact on girls’ health and future livelihood. Child marriage significantly increases risks of death in childbirth, infant mortality, obstetric fistulas and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. In addition, women who are forced to marry at a young age generally enjoy much lower economic independence and productivity and are far less likely to be educated.
The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act would:
• Express the Sense of the Congress that child marriage in developing countries undermines U.S. investments in foreign assistance;
• Requires the President to submit a report to Congress within 180 days describing a comprehensive strategy to reduce child marriage overseas.
• Authorize the President to spend such sums as necessary to provide assistance to reduce child marriage. This new effort would complement and enhance existing programs designed to improve girls’ access to education and health care, raise community social awareness about child marriage, increase women’s economic opportunities, and prevent gender-based violence.
• Require the U.S. State Department to collect data on the prevalence of child marriage and its impact on meeting development goals, and describe the prevalence of child marriage in its annual Human Rights Report.
Today’s bill is cosponsored by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Durbin introduced a similar bill last congress.
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