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Anti-child marriage legislation introduced in Congress

world Updated: May 08, 2009 13:42 IST
Anti-child marriage legislation introduced in Congress

A bill for foreign assistance to curb the menace of child marriage in African and South Asian countries, including India, has been introduced in the two Houses of the US.

Congressman Betty McCollum, who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives, said "it is deeply troubling that little girls, only nine or ten years old, are being given as child brides to men sometimes decades older, putting these girls at greater risk of contracting HIV, dying in childbirth, delivering under-weight babies or living in extreme poverty".

McCollum, said the US invests billions of dollars to improve the lives of people in the poorest countries.

"Child marriage is a horrific human rights violation that undermines that investment," he argued.

"The manner in which a country treats women and children says a lot about its cultural and societal values," said Senator Richard Durbin, lead sponsor of bill in the Senate along with Senator Olympia Snowe.

"Young teenage girls who are forced to marry face serious health risks and are often far less educated than their unmarried peers," Durbin said.

"This bill will bring this harmful practice to an end and give millions of girls around the globe hope for a better future," he said.

According to an estimate, some 60 million girls in the developing world are married and if current patterns continue, more than 100 million girls will be married during the next 10 years.

The bill authorise foreign assistance funding over five years to prevent child marriage and provide educational and economic opportunities to girls in the developing world.

The policy would help ensure that the fundamental human rights of girls are protected by Promoting community understanding of the practice's harmful impact.

The State Department discussed this harmful practice in its annual Human Rights Report and scaled-up community-based efforts to offer viable alternatives to early marriage.