|International Women’s Health Coalition Calls on Congress to End Child Marriage|
July 16, 2010— At a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Thursday July 15,
experts called for leadership from the United States Congress in ending the
early and forced marriage of millions of girls worldwide.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
International Preventing Child Marriage Act an important step in securing a just and healthy life for women and girls worldwide
July 16, 2010-At a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission yesterday, experts called for leadership from the United States Congress in ending the early and forced marriage of millions of girls worldwide.
Calling for a coordinated partnership among the U.S. government, health care professionals, nongovernmental organizations, and other key stakeholders, U.S. Ambassador at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer stated that by working together, "we can put child marriage where it belongs, in the dust bins of history." Representative McGovern, Chairman of the Commission, agreed that Congress has a role to play in ending the practice of early and forced marriage.
Members of Congress and leading health and human rights organizations, including the International Women's Health Coalition, submitted written and oral testimonies in support of the development of a U.S. government strategy to integrate child marriage prevention programs into foreign assistance programs. In particular, advocates called on Congress to pass the International Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S.987/H.R. 2103) this year.
Worldwide, more than 60 million girls between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18- often at the encouragement of their parents and often to much older men - with no say in the decision.
Beyond being a fundamental human rights violation, child marriage also instigates a myriad of educational, social, and health challenges to girls who are married too young. For example, because their bodies are not yet fully developed, child brides run a very high risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth-in fact, childbirth is the leading cause of death for girls ages 15-19. Young brides also are more likely to experience gender-based violence, and are highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Most are forced to leave school when they marry, which limits their future economic opportunities and contributes to an ongoing cycle of poverty and poor development outcomes.
"Before the United States is a wonderful opportunity to join the international community in rejecting harmful practices that force young girls into marriages for which they are not physically, emotionally, or socially ready," said International Women's Health Coalition President Adrienne Germain in her written statement to the Commission.
"By passing and implementing the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, the United States will take an important step towards securing the rights of girls and women everywhere to a just and healthy life.
"Our partners and colleagues around the world applaud the Commission's commitment to addressing the issue of early and forced marriages. We also thank Representative McCollum and Senators Durbin and Snowe for their leadership on this important issue as well as all of the Members of Congress that have joined them in calling for the passage of the this bipartisan piece of legislation."
The International Women's Health Coalition leads global and local actions to secure every woman's right to a just and healthy life. We are creating a world where women are free from discrimination, sexual coercion and violence, and have access to health services and information.