Despite unanimous approval by the United States Senate, the House of Representatives on Dec. 16 blocked the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act” in a 241-166 vote. To pass, the bill needed to be endorsed by two-thirds of those present; it fell short by 31 votes.
“We came so far – and so close,” said Sarah Degnan Kambou, president of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). “We will continue to educate members of Congress about the causes and consequences of child marriage, work with them to identify solutions and re-double our efforts to pass the bill next year.”
Approved by the Senate on Dec. 1, the bill would have required the U.S. State Department to address child marriage in its annual human rights report. It also would have authorized the government to integrate prevention efforts into existing development programs.
However, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would cost approximately $67 million over five years to implement.
“Despite the outcome, the bill garnered the support of 113 co-sponsors,” Kambou said, “and we believe many congressional members continue to care deeply about the issue of child marriage.” Among them were Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), who championed the effort in the House. “ICRW thanks them for their leadership,” Kambou said.
A decade of ICRW research shows that child marriage results in a myriad of problems for girls and young women, such as a higher risk of domestic violence, HIV infection and maternal mortality. But research also shows that well-executed programs can increase the age of marriage for girls – throughout entire communities – in a relatively short period of time.
“We will continue to identify solutions to the issue of child marriage – including those that are best carried out by the U.S. government,” Kambou said.