To protect girls in developing countries through the prevention of child marriage, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010’.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress makes the following findings:
(1) Child marriage, also known as ‘forced marriage’ or ‘early marriage’, is a harmful traditional practice that deprives girls of their dignity and human rights.
(2) Child marriage as a traditional practice, as well as through coercion or force, is a violation of article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, ‘Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of intending spouses’.
(3) According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an estimated 60,000,000 girls in developing countries now ages 20 through 24 were married under the age of 18, and if present trends continue more than 100,000,000 more girls in developing countries will be married as children over the next decade, according to the Population Council.
(4) Between 1/2 and 3/4 of all girls are married before the age of 18 in Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, and Nepal, according to Demographic Health Survey data.
(5) Factors perpetuating child marriage include poverty, a lack of educational or employment opportunities for girls, parental concerns to ensure sexual relations within marriage, the dowry system, and the perceived lack of value of girls.
(6) Child marriage has negative effects on the health of girls, including significantly increased risk of maternal death and morbidity, infant mortality and morbidity, obstetric fistula, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
(7) According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), increasing the age at first birth for a woman will increase her chances of survival. Currently, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death for women 15 to 19 years old in developing countries.
(8) Most countries with high rates of child marriage have a legally established minimum age of marriage, yet child marriage persists due to strong traditional norms and the failure to enforce existing laws.
(9) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that child marriage is ‘a clear and unacceptable violation of human rights’, and that ‘the Department of State categorically denounces all cases of child marriage as child abuse’.
(10) According to an International Center for Research on Women analysis of Demographic and Health Survey data, areas or regions in developing countries in which 40 percent or more of girls under the age of 18 are married are considered high-prevalence areas for child marriage.
(11) Investments in girls’ schooling, creating safe community spaces for girls, and programs for skills building for out-of-school girls are all effective and demonstrated strategies for preventing child marriage and creating a pathway to empower girls by addressing conditions of poverty, low status, and norms that contribute to child marriage.
SEC. 3. CHILD MARRIAGE DEFINED.
In this Act, the term ‘child marriage’ means the marriage of a girl or boy, not yet the minimum age for marriage stipulated in law in the country in which the girl or boy is a resident or, where there is no such law, under the age of 18.
SEC. 4. SENSE OF CONGRESS.
It is the sense of Congress that--
(1) child marriage is a violation of human rights, and the prevention and elimination of child marriage should be a foreign policy goal of the United States;
(2) the practice of child marriage undermines United States investments in foreign assistance to promote education and skills building for girls, reduce maternal and child mortality, reduce maternal illness, halt the transmission of HIV/AIDS, prevent gender-based violence, and reduce poverty; and
(3) expanding educational opportunities for girls, economic opportunities for women, and reducing maternal and child mortality are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the global health and development objectives of the United States, including efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS.
SEC. 5. STRATEGY TO PREVENT CHILD MARRIAGE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.
(a) Assistance Authorized-
(1) IN GENERAL- The President is authorized to provide assistance, including through multilateral, nongovernmental, and faith-based organizations, to prevent the incidence of child marriage in developing countries through the promotion of educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of girls and women.
Excellent. There could be nothing in this bill to object to, surely. In fact it passed the Senate on December 1st by unanimous Bipartisan support. On Dec 6, Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post, praising the USA : “This act illustrates how support for securing a just and healthy life for every woman and girl transcends politics.” Then on December 16th the Bill failed to pass the House of Representatives.
The GOP Whips (John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) had sent out an alert, "There are also concerns that funding will be directed to NGOs that promote and perform abortion and efforts to combat child marriage could be usurped as a way to overturn pro-life laws." This is plainly a lie. Federal funding is already prohibited for abortion activities by the Helms Amendment The Republicans, perhaps realising the abortion tactic would not play, used a scaremongering fiscal argument saying the Bill would cost $67million over the period 2011-2015. However the Congressional Budget Office states "Enacting S. 987 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply to this legislation.” This money was therefore already budgeted foreign aid, not new appropriation as claimed by Ros-Lehtinen. Conor Williams of the Washington Post, wrote at PostPartisan “How can Republicans explain efforts to defeat a human rights bill because of $67 million in potential spending while simultaneously pushing for a tax cut deal for wealthy Americans that will add $858 billion to the deficit? Is this at all credible?” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) the main author of the Bill said "The action on the House floor stopping the Child Marriage bill tonight will endanger the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. These young girls, enslaved in marriage, will be brutalized and many will die when their young bodies are torn apart while giving birth. Those who voted to continue this barbaric practice brought shame to Capitol Hill."
In her 1978 book Gyn/Ecology, author Mary Daly makes note of a 1922 index involving child brides in India at the time describing four cases:
A. Aged 9 Day after marriage. Left femur dislocated, pelvis crushed out of shape, flesh hanging in shreds. I. Aged about 7. Living with husband. Died in great agony after three days… L. Aged 11. From great violence done to her person, will be a cripple for life. No use of her lower extremities. M. Aged about 10. Crawled to hospital on her hands and knees. Has never been able to stand since her marriage.