CARE BLOG

Convince Legislators to Take Action on Child Marriage!

7/14/10

I was the typical 10-year-old girl growing up in southern Louisiana. I liked riding my bike around the neighborhood, playing with schoolmates, teasing my younger sister who clung unto everything me and my friends did. Boys, and in particular marriage, was not something I spent my time thinking about. Ever.

But for more than sixty million girls under the age of 18 around the world, marriage is not only something that they think about, it's something that they live with. And for many, it's nothing short of a death sentence.

Throughout the developing world, poverty plays a central role in causing and perpetuating early marriage. Poor countries and families often have few resources to support healthy alternatives for girls, such as schooling. In such families with limited resources, child marriage is often seen as a way to provide for their daughter's future. However, girls who marry young have an increased chance of being poor and remaining poor. In addition, child brides are often devastated by the health consequences of marrying young:

  • Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than women ages 20 to 24.
  • Complications related to childbirth and pregnancy is the leading cause of death worldwide for girls ages 15 to 19.
  • Early marriage is a risk factor for domestic violence, higher rates of maternal and/or infant mortality, obstetric fistula, malnutrition and HIV infection.

If child marriage continues at its current rate, an additional 100 million girls in developing countries will be married within the next decade. That's 25,000 new child brides every single day for the next 10 years.

But there are solutions. On Thursday, July 15, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing on the causes and consequences of child marriage, focusing on actions governments, nongovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies can take to end the harmful practice.

The hearing also will encourage legislators to pass the International Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S.987/H.R. 2103) this year. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that child marriage is recognized as a human rights violation, develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent child marriage and empower young girls, integrate child marriage prevention approaches throughout U.S. foreign assistance programs and scale up proven approaches and programs to end the practice.

If you're in the D.C. area, I encourage you to attend. It's from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at 2226 Rayburn House Building and is open to the public. I'll also be tweeting live from the event, so follow me @nclarkCARE. Most importantly, tell your legislators to cosponsor the International Preventing Child Marriage Act, if they haven't already. Sign CARE's petition today!

Niki Clark
Policy Media Relations Officer, CARE
nclark@care.org