Thursday, December 02, 2010

Child Marriage: Leading Humanitarian organization Commends U.S. Senate on Passage of International Preventing Child Marriage Act

Leading humanitarian organization CARE applauds the United States Senate today for passing the International Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S.987). Under the leadership of Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), tireless champions and lead sponsors of the bill, this bipartisan legislation passed unanimously out of the Senate. The legislation will ensure that child marriage is recognized as a human rights violation, develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent child marriage and empower young girls, integrate child marriage prevention approaches throughout U.S. foreign assistance programs and scale-up proven approaches and programs to end the practice.

"Today, the United States Senate took the first step toward stopping millions of young girls each year from being forced into unwanted marriages," touted CARE President and CEO Dr. Helene Gayle. "This landmark vote is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty and decreasing maternal deaths for girls worldwide."

Now that the Senate has passed the legislation, CARE and other key allies including International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC) and International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) urge the U.S. House of Representatives to quickly pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the end of the year.

More than 60 million girls ages 17 and younger—many as young as 10—are forced into marriage in developing countries. Many of these girls are married to men more than twice their age. Not only does this unacceptable practice thwart a girl's education, it endangers her health and often locks her into a life of poverty.

"Girls forced to marry early often become young mothers, which can be extremely dangerous at such a young age," explained Dr. Gayle. "Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death worldwide for girls ages 15 to 19. Early marriage is also a risk factor for domestic violence and HIV infection."

This past summer, experts from leading humanitarian organizations, including CARE, testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission against the practice of child marriage as a gross human rights violation that puts young girls at risk and keeps them mired in poverty. Also, nearly 1,000 CARE advocates stormed Capitol Hill in support of this legislation and advocated an end to child marriage during CARE's National Conference this past spring.

CARE works to end the harmful practice of child marriage by promoting increased access to quality education for girls, mobilizing communities to change social norms, encouraging financial literacy and economic empowerment and working with local organizations to advocate for the elimination of bride price, dowry and early marriage. CARE's work in countries such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Egypt has proven that if families have feasible alternatives to child marriage, such as educational opportunities, they tend to delay marrying their daughters. CARE's nearly 65 years of experience working in over 70 countries shows that girls who are not forced to marry may have the opportunity to pursue an education, resulting in better outcomes for their health and economic future.

"The cost of child marriage on girls and entire communities is too high to ignore," added Dr. Gayle. "The U.S. House of Representatives has little time to act to pass this legislation. We urge them to move quickly to give millions of girls a choice and a chance."

Source: CARE

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