United States Senate Passes Legislation to Prevent Child Marriage

Press Release Subtitle

Girls Not Brides Coalition Applauds Action

Press Release Author

Jennifer Abrahamson, (202) 742-1250

Twenty leading non-governmental organizations today commended the United States Senate for passing the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. This is a critical step in upholding the rights of adolescent girls around the world, and in shielding them from the harmful practice of child marriage, which often has devastating consequences for girls, their families and their communities.

Under the leadership of Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), tireless
champions and lead sponsors of the bill, the Senate passed the bipartisan legislation yesterday
evening by a voice vote.

The legislation recognizes the practice of child marriage as a human rights violation, requires
the development of a multi-year strategy to address child marriage and integrates successful
interventions to prevent child marriage into existing U.S. development programs. The Senate’s
passage sends a strong message on the importance of prioritizing child marriage prevention as a
top U.S. international development priority. The Administration has the authority to implement
key provisions of the legislation and should do so immediately to support efforts to end child

“Tens of millions of women and girls around the world have lost their dignity, freedom, and
health due to forced child marriage,” Senator Durbin said. “Not only does this despicable
practice deny these women and girls an education and economic independence, it is also the
root cause of many of the world’s most pressing development issues – HIV/AIDS, child mortality,
and abject poverty. This bill makes it U.S. government policy to end child marriage around the
globe, a policy which will change the lives of millions in some of the world’s forgotten places. I’m
pleased that the Senate has passed this important bill and I urge the House to quickly follow

The latest data show that more than 60 million girls and young women – some as young as 10 –
in developing countries were married before the age of 18. If current patterns continue, 100
million more girls in the developing world will be married over the next 10 years. The costs of
child marriage are high, not only for the girls themselves, but also for communities and societies
as a whole.

Because their bodies are not fully developed, child brides are at a very high risk of facing
complications in pregnancy and childbirth – childbirth is the leading cause of death for girls ages
15-19. Young brides are more likely to experience gender-based violence, to drop out of school
and to contract sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

“I am grateful the Senate recognized the critical impact this legislation will have on the
estimated 100 million girls in developing countries who are at risk of being married as children
over the next decade,” said Senator Snowe. “The harmful practice of forced child marriage –
which is often at the root of and exacerbates many of the problems the international
community is working to prevent – has deprived vulnerable girls in developing countries of their
human rights; denied girls of certain education and employment opportunities; significantly
expanded the risk of maternal and infant death; and increased the spread of sexually
transmitted diseases like HIV and AIDS. This legislation will help maximize U.S. investment in
foreign assistance programs and it is absolutely vital that this bill be approved by the House of
Representatives and go to the President’s desk at the earliest date possible.”

Mission Statement:

About the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
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.

About Girls Not Brides
Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of over 100 organisations working to end child marriage all over the world. Together, we aim to give a voice to girls at risk of child marriage, to defend their rights to health and education, and to give them the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential. ICRW is a member of Girls Not Brides. For more information, www.girlsnotbrides.org.