The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a unanimous vote on Sept. 21 sent the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act” to the full Senate for consideration, a move that represents significant momentum on the legislation.
The bill, which enjoys broad bipartisan support, is based in part on a decade of research by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Its endorsement comes on the heels of a column by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former Brazilian President Fernando H. Cardoso as well as the launch of a new child marriage initiative by The Elders, an independent group of world leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela. ICRW supports their effort.
Meanwhile, President Bill Clinton this week addressed the issue of child marriage during a video interview (see 3:27 mark) at the annual Clinton Global Initiative.
Sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the legislation aims to bolster the U.S. government’s role in curbing the harmful practice of forced child marriage. It also would require the U.S. State Department to report on child marriage in its annual human rights report and authorize the government to integrate prevention efforts into existing development programs.
“When enacted, this legislation will mark a turning point in how girls are valued,” ICRW President Sarah Degnan Kambou said. “The U.S. Congress will illustrate to the world that it recognizes the important role of girls in a society.”
ICRW is among several organizations that are advocating for the child marriage prevention bill, including CARE, the International Women’s Health Coalition and PLAN USA, among others.
“ICRW applauds lead sponsors Sens. Durbin and Snowe for championing the bill, and the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for making adolescent girls a priority of U.S. development efforts,” Kambou said.
Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s writer/editor. Senior Advocacy Specialist Dan Martin contributed to this report.