U.S. Commission Lifts Veil on Forced Child Marriage

Article Date

16 July 2010

Article Author

By Grace Lamb-Atkinson

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Girls around the world continue to be undervalued, which helps fuel the practice of forced child marriage in many developing countries, the International Center for Research on Women’s (ICRW) Anju Malhotra told members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission during a July 15 hearing.

Read Malhotra’s testimony (PDF) »

Malhotra, vice president of research, innovation and impact, asserted that solutions to the issue of forced child marriage must come from empowering girls. And research shows that ways to end the practice already exist, she said. They include strengthening girls’ educational opportunities, showing communities and families the value of educating girls, and empowering girls with life skills.

Now, Malhotra said, it’s necessary to “scale up the solutions.”

Malhotra addressed several legislators during the standing-room-only hearing, including Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and co-chairman of the commission, Rep. Jim McGovern, (D-Mass.). It was the third time in less than a year that an ICRW expert has been invited to testify before U.S. legislators.

Other panelists at the hearing also emphasized that efforts to end forced child marriage need to focus on the lives of young girls. Any strategy to do so “must be an effort to increase the value of the girl-child in her community,” said Melanne Verveer, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. Verveer and others stressed that a key step to addressing forced child marriage is passing the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act.

By endorsing the legislation, Malhotra said the U.S. can support efforts to significantly reduce the rate of early marriages in the next few years. And with fewer child brides, foreign investments to, for instance, prevent HIV or reduce maternal mortality rates, are less likely to be undermined.

At the close of the testimonies, McGovern thanked panelists for a productive hearing.

“I end this hearing not in despair,” he said, “but with hope.”

Grace Lamb-Atkinson is a communications intern at ICRW.