Preventing Child Marriage in Displaced Populations Act

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SEATTLE, Washington — The Preventing Child Marriage in Displaced Populations Act is cosponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA). It passed unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This legislation would direct the United States to lead U.N. efforts to adopt a definition of ‘child marriage’ and craft a comprehensive strategy to address child marriages in U.N.-administered refugee settlements.” Here are the main points about the Preventing Child Marriage in Displaced Populations Act:

What Research Shows

The bill starts by listing the research findings. UNICEF reported that 12 million girls under the age of 18 get married each year. Child marriage takes away the ability for children to make decisions about their “health, family and career.” They are also less likely to attend school. Furthermore and more likely to contract HIV.

Child brides have a higher prepensity to experience abuse and die from pregnancy or while giving birth. A United Nations study found that Syrian refugees had child marriage rate that was four times higher than for Syrians previous to the conflict, indicating that child marriage is often a result of conditions like displacement. The act aims to “prevent child marriage in refugee settlements administered by the United Nations.”  Ann Wagner (R-MO) introduced the bill and stated, “Child marriage is a violation of human rights and a form of violence against women.

The Plan to Prevent Child Marriage in Displaced Populations Act

The first element to the act is to have the President send a U.S. Representative to the U.N. in order to find “an agreed-upon definition of ‘child marriage.'” Then, the representative will call for a strategy to address child marriage in refugee settlements which will include several key elements. Countries must collect data regularly and report data on known or suspected child marriages in each settlement. Programs must be implemented to aid former victims of child marriage. Programs should include physical, mental and emotional rehabilitation as well as education initiatives.

The stragegy calls for protocols to be put in place for personnel to prevent or monitor child marriages and report adults participating in child marriages. These protocols also address how U.N. personnel should monitor the persecution of adults who participate in child marriage by country authorities.The representative will advocate research into child marriage and the relationship between child marriage and violence against girls. According to the CBO, this bill will not affect the federal budget.

Child Marriage may seem like the only option for poor families in times of crisis. Marriage means one less mouth to feed and sometimes a sum of money for the bride. Sometimes daughters are married young in an attempt to protect them from violence and to ensure their virginity. However, many girls who are married before the age of 18 experience sexual violence or other forms of violence in their marriage. Child marriage is never a good solution to hardship. The Preventing Child Marriage in Displaced Populations Act would help to monitor child marriages and provide other options for families.

– Sarah Faure
Photo: Flickr

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