Child Marriage persists across the World

Activists from London and officials from the United States highlighted child marriage and what the federal government can do to combat the problem earlier this morning on Capitol Hill.

State Department Assistant Secretary of Refugees Anne Richard and U.S. Ambassador – At – Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine M. Russell outlined problems that occur when young women are forced into early marriage.

Children of a young bride are less likely to be immunized or to receive a formal education, a challenge Richard said she believes that America can combat.

“This is a place where U.S. leadership can make a big difference,” Richard said.

In 2013, the United States launched the Safe from the Start Initiative. Through $10 million in funding to the U.N., the program aims to assist those dealing with gender based violence around the globe.

Later, officials said that more work needs to be done about this issue domestically. Russell noted that there are currently no guidelines in place that determine what would happen if a 45-year-old man came to the United States with his 13-year-old wife.

“I don’t know the answer as to what happens….I will get back to you,” Russell said.

International Center for Research on Women Senior Director Dr. Suzanne Petroni urged the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee to remember regions of the world where this issue is not well known and asked Congress to fund more research.

“We need to support research to understand what will end childhood marriage in North America and understudied regions,” Petroni said.

Facts on Childhood Marriage (ICRW)

  • One third of girls in the developing world are married before 18.
  • Girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children.
  • Child brides are at higher risk for HIV.
  • No one religious affiliation is associated with child marriage.

London based anti-child marriage advocacy group Girls Not Brides Executive Director Lakshmi Sundaram stressed that this trend is one that the international community can reverse and urged Congress to use its power to make that happen.

“I recommend that Congress use its powers of the purse and oversight and show full support for this issue….we are seeing change, five years ago talking about this was taboo,” Sundaram said.

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