United States Pursues Law Addressing the Devastating Effects of Child Marriage
Monday, August 8, 2011 9:45 AM

In the United States, legislation will be reintroduced this fall aimed at preventing child marriage. The proposed legislation will focus on child marriage in developing countries by requiring the U.S. Department of State to incorporate child marriage prevention into current development efforts as well as report on the issue annually. 

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act was unanimously passed by the US Senate in 2010, but failed in the House of Representatives due to Republican concerns that it would help organizations supply abortions. Betty McCollum, a representative from Minnesota who was the lead sponsor of the bill, said that the bill “has nothing to do with abortion. It has everything to do with saving 12-year-old girls being sold into slavery or sold to settle a family debt.”


Marriage before the age of 18 is considered a fundamental human rights violation by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Experts say that in addition to child marriage itself being a human rights violation, it has a “ripple effect” that impacts not only individual girls, but on the achievement of many human rights goals. Human rights workers say that six of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, set to be achieved by 2015, are negatively influenced by child marriage. These goals include eradication of poverty and hunger, universal primary education, reduction of child mortality, promotion of gender equality, improvements to maternal health, and combating HIV and other diseases.


Plan UK reports that a girl under eighteen is married every three seconds, and a recent study showed that more that 70 percent of girls in Niger, Chad, and Mali are married before age eighteen. Several other countries had marriage rates over 50 percent.


Compiled from:  Child marriage condemns millions of girls to poverty (1 Aug, 2011), Trust Law.