Durbin, Snowe Bill to Protect Women and Girls from Child Marriage Passes Senate

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – The Senate unanimously passed the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act late last night, a bill to protect women and girls in developing countries from child marriages. The bill, introduced by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), requires the U.S. government to develop an integrated, strategic approach to combating child marriage with the goal of eliminating this practice worldwide. The bill also seeks to promote the educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of women and girls.


“Tens of millions of women and girls around the world have lost their dignity, independence and lives due to child marriage,” Durbin said. “Child marriage denies these women and girls of an education, economic independence and is the root cause of many of the world’s most pressing development issues - HIV/AIDS, child mortality, and abject poverty. This bill makes it the policy of the U.S. government to end child marriage around the globe. It 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.”


“I am grateful for the Senate’s recognition of the critical impact this legislation will have on the estimated 100 million girls in developing countries who are at risk of being married as children over the next decade,” said Senator Snowe. “The harmful practice of forced child marriage – which is often at the root of and exacerbates many of the problems the international community is working to prevent - has deprived vulnerable girls in developing countries of their human rights; denied girls of certain education and employment opportunities; significantly expanded the risk of maternal and infant death; and increased the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and AIDS. This legislation will help maximize the U.S. 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.”


United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 60 million girls in developing countries now ages 20 to 24 were married under the age of 18. The Population Council estimates that the number will increase by 100 million over the next decade if current trends continue.


Child marriage is often carried out through force or coercion. It deprives young girls – and sometimes boys - of their dignity and human rights. In some countries, it is not uncommon for girls as young as seven or eight years old to be married. These young victims (which can also include young boys) are robbed of their childhoods.


In addition to denying tens of millions of women and girls their dignity, child marriage also endangers their health. Marriage at an early age puts girls at greater risk of dying as a result of childbirth. Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death for women 15 to 19 years old in developing countries. Their children also face higher mortality rates.


The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act is cosponsored by 41 members of the Senate. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Betty McCollum and Congressman Ander Crenshaw.