Solutions Exist to End Forced Child Marriage

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ICRW Expert Anju Malhotra Testifies on Capitol Hill

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Jeannie Bunton, 202.742.1316, [email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Political momentum in the U.S. Congress, combined with proven solutions, could finally end the dire practice of forced child marriage in many developing countries. Anju Malhotra, vice president of research, innovation and impact at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), today addressed the causes, consequences and potential solutions to this practice during a hearing held by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

Forced child marriage is a pervasive problem across the developing world that has violated the human rights of more than 60 million girls and continues to undermine global development efforts. A variety of factors contribute to the practice, including poverty, lack of education and the force of deeply-rooted tradition. Early marriage – some girls are as young as 8 – not only robs girls of their childhood, but also thwarts initiatives aimed at raising their education levels and reducing maternal mortality rates.

However, forced child marriage is surmountable. Education is the single most important factor associated with girls marrying before the age of 18, according to ICRW research. “When we enroll more girls in school, marriage rates go down. When girls learn about their rights and have access to income-generating opportunities, they create alternatives to marriage,” Malhotra said. “And when social norms change and families have access to community support, they will delay marriage for their daughters.”

Efforts proven to delay the age of marriage for girls also include providing opportunities for them to learn life skills, such as how to communicate with others, and that raise awareness among parents, teachers and other influential adults about the health and social consequences for child brides.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, introduced in 2009, begins to outline some of these solutions. With the political will and resources authorized in this legislation, the United States can support efforts to bring down perceptibly the rate of forced child marriage over the next few years.

“Now we have unprecedented bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress for this important piece of legislation,” Malhotra said. “Let’s use our voices and leadership to finally give young girls around the world a better future.”

Download a copy of Malhotra’s written testimony submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives Human Rights Commission (PDF) »

Mission Statement:

ICRW’s mission is to empower women, advance gender equality and fight poverty in the developing world. To accomplish this, ICRW works with partners to conduct empirical research, build capacity and advocate for evidence-based, practical ways to change policies and programs.