United States senators this month reintroduced legislation aimed at curbing child marriage worldwide, a move that comes two months after the same bill was blocked in the House of Representatives during the last Congressional session.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) once again is leading the effort to champion the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act.” The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.).
The legislation contains the same provisions that unanimously passed the Senate in 2010. In part, it would require President Obama to create a strategy to reduce child marriage; authorize his administration to integrate child marriage prevention activities into existing development programs, and require the U.S. State Department to report on the issue in its annual report on human rights.
ICRW has advocated for the passage of the child marriage prevention bill since 2006.
“We’ll continue to work with members of Congress — including those who led the effort to defeat last year’s bill — to help them understand the importance of addressing child marriage in U.S. foreign assistance programs,” said Dan Martin, ICRW’s senior advocacy specialist.
In a tight budget environment, Martin stressed that addressing child marriage would improve outcomes for existing foreign assistance priorities. Child marriage contributes to higher rates of maternal mortality, infant mortality, HIV infection and domestic violence as well as stymies efforts to educate girls, all of which undermine the intent of many development programs.
“This bill will help our foreign aid dollars go farther,” Martin said. “I have faith that we can find common ground – this issue is too important, and it is good policy.”