EPPN: Protect Girls by Preventing Child Marriage

Posted Oct 1, 2012

[Episcopal Public Policy Network] Each year, ten million girls around the world are married before their eighteenth birthday. Many are far younger and most have no say in when or whom they marry.

That means that today an estimated 60 million women in their early twenties were forced into marriage as a child — a sum nearly the size (there-quarters) of the Anglican Communion — the global body of Anglicans of which The Episcopal Church is part.

Child marriage practices are particularly prevalent in Africa and South Asia, where girls as young as seven are routinely forced into marriages with much older men.

This practice robs young girls (and sometimes boys) of their youth, often forcing them into involuntary sexual relationships with adults many times their senior. In addition, child brides are often required to stop attending school and forced into a life of servitude. These young girls experience higher rates of maternal mortality, birth complications, and sexually-transmitted illnesses. In the worst cases, young brides are tortured, murdered, or feel so hopeless that they resort to suicide.

In addition to perpetuating the systems of global poverty and gender inequality, child marriage is also an outcome of the vicious cycles of global poverty. When food is scarce, families often resort to offering their children for marriage in exchange for food and other life-sustaining resources.

This summer, U.S. Senators — Republicans and Democrats — came together and voted overwhelmingly in favor of the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. The Act would utilize U.S. foreign policy and foreign assistance programs to reduce this harmful practice of child marriage and to empower girls and women through education, health care, economic advancement, law, and gender equality.

The Senate has passed this bill.

Tell your Representative to co-sponsor this bipartisan act to reduce child marriage and its life-long ramifications for women’s education, health, and prosperity, and to urge his or her colleagues to swiftly pass this critically important bill before the end of the year. Click here to write to your Representative now.