Capitol Hill Hearing Examines Health, Social Consequences Of Child Marriage

VOA News covered a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, which addressed child marriage in the developing world and its impact on girls and communities (Presto, 7/15).

“The hearing addressed the causes and consequences of child marriage and encouraged legislators to pass the International Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S.987/H.R. 2103) this year,” according to a press release from CARE, which participated in the hearing. The bipartisan measure aims to “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,” the press release states (7/15).

“Experts on women’s and children’s issues told the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission that millions of girls find themselves in similar situations, with about 20,000 of them becoming child brides each day,” VOA News writes. Anju Malhotra, a vice president of the International Center for Research on Women, discussed some of the health and social effects of child marriage, including the increased risk for domestic violence, HIV and maternal and child mortality. 

Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women who are a decade older, according to the International Women’s Health Coalition. The organization “also says complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death worldwide for females ages 15 to 19,” the news service reports.

“More than 60 million girls ages 17 and younger – many as young as 10 – are forced into marriage in developing countries,” according to testimony from Stephanie Baric, senior technical advisor for CARE’s Basic and Girls Education Unit, the CARE press release notes. Baric said, “If child marriage continues at its current rate, an additional 100 million girls globally will be child brides in the next decade. Not only does this unacceptable practice thwart a girl’s education, it endangers her health and often locks her into a life of poverty” (7/15).

Melanne Verveer, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, said countries should set and enforce a minimum age for marriage, VOA News writes. “Child marriage is inextricably linked to the cycle of poverty,” according to Verveer. “Girls already in school are often forced to terminate their education when they marry, and married girls are prevented from taking advantage of education and work opportunities.”

Francesca Moneti, a senior child protection specialist at UNICEF, noted that “child marriage affects millions of girls in all regions of the world, and especially in South Asia and in Africa.” She also said communities often back away from child marriage when leaders learn about the negative consequences and “said UNICEF and its development partners had seen some encouraging results in places such as Senegal,” the news service writes (7/15).

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