Throughout the world, marriage is celebrated as a happy event of adult life. But for children—mostly girls who have a husband imposed upon them—the event marks a premature end to their childhood.
Child marriage is a harmful traditional practice and a violation of human rights. And it is a fact of life for many children around the world. In several countries of sub-Saharan Africa and in Bangladesh, more than 60 percent of women were married before the age of 18. Child marriage often leads to separation from family and friends, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community activities, and decreased opportunities for education and economic participation.
Because early marriage is usually tied to early pregnancy, girls married at a young age also face serious health risks—a girl under age 16 is five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than a woman between the ages of 20 to 24. In addition, childhood pregnancy may lead to stunting for both mother and baby.
Though the United States supports many programs that assist children and mothers, there is no specific U.S. Government strategy or funding to focus on the problem of child marriage, or helping girls already married. The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act would strengthen and make more effective U.S. efforts to prevent child marriage. Although the Senate already passed this legislation with bipartisan support (with your voices of support!), the House still needs to act on the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2012.
Tell your Member of Congress that you care about preventing child marriage.
U.S. Fund for UNICEF started this petition with a single signature, and now has 23,781 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.