Late Wednesday night, the Senate voted unanimously to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. Sponsored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the bill aims to protect women and girls in developing countries from entering into child marriages.
If passed, the bill would require that the Department of State implement a multi-year plan to prevent child marriages in developing nations and promote the educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of girls and women. The act has not been passed in the House.
Durbin stated, “Tens of millions of women and girls around the world have lost their dignity, independence and lives due to child marriage. Child marriage denies these women and girls of an education, economic independence and is the root cause of many of the world’s most pressing development issues – HIV/ AIDS, child mortality, and abject poverty.”
UNICEF reports that over 60 percent of women were married prior to their 18th birthday in Sub-Saharan African and Bangladesh. Furthermore, the maternal mortality rate is five times higher for women under 16 years of age than those between 20 and 24.