The U.S. Senate on Dec. 1 unanimously passed the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act,” marking the first time either chamber of Congress has endorsed legislation related to the issue of child marriage. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The legislation aims to bolster the U.S. government’s role in curbing the harmful practice that forces girls, sometimes as young as 8, to marry. 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.
“ICRW applauds Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) for shepherding this important legislation through the Senate,” said Dan Martin, ICRW’s senior policy advocate. “Our attention now turns to the House of Representatives, encouraging them to follow suit.”
Martin added that ICRW is counting on Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the bill’s lead sponsor in the House, for her continued support.
In order to become law, the child marriage bill must pass both the Senate and House in the same congressional session, and then be signed by President Obama. The current session is scheduled to end in early December. If the House does not act before Congress adjourns, the legislative process must start anew in January.
“ICRW strongly urges the House to act with all due haste to pass this bill,” Martin said. “It would be a shame to see this nonpartisan legislation — which has the potential to improve the lives of millions of girls – come to a halt.”
ICRW is among several organizations advocating for the child marriage prevention bill, including CARE and the International Women’s Health Coalition, among others. Those interested in contacting Congress about the issue, may click here to send an email to your representative.