Joint Statement: Reps. McCollum and Schock Applaud House Passage of Child Marriage Prevention Strategy in Violence Against Women Act
Protecting Girls from Forced Marriage Will Be U.S. Foreign Policy Priority
Today, the House of Representatives passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S.47), which includes language requiring the U.S. to develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent child marriage in developing countries. Throughout their time in Congress, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) have consistently fought to pass legislation that would reduce the number of child brides and give young girls a chance at a better life.
“For years, I have been working to protect young girls, even pre-teen girls, in poor countries from being forced to marry, forced into sex, and forced into lives of poverty. Today, with the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, the United States will make protecting girls and preventing child marriage a foreign policy priority. Keeping girls and women safe from violence and abuse here at home and around the world will always be a priority for me,” said Congresswoman McCollum.
“Child marriage is a tragedy happening on an epic scale around the world. This is a moral, economic and humanitarian crisis that doesn’t receive nearly enough attention in our country,” said Congressman Aaron Schock. “However, all that begins to change today with the passage of our legislation. On my trip with CARE to Ethiopia, I saw first-hand how child marriage devastates young girls physically and emotionally, while destroying their future. I’m grateful we can finally tell the world that help is on the way.”
Background on Congressman McCollum’s trip to Bangladesh
In 2012, Congresswoman McCollum traveled to Bangladesh to assess U.S.-funded initiatives that impact the health, education, and economic security of women and girls, especially efforts to prevent child marriage. She was joined on the trip by Ambassador Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues. Millions of girls in Bangladesh are vulnerable to child marriage. While in Bangladesh, Congresswoman McCollum met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mohamed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, and visited the Asian University for Women in Chittagong to meet with young female leaders pursuing college degrees.
Background on Congressman Schock’s trip to Ethiopia
In September 2010, Congressman Aaron Schock traveled with CARE on a learning tour to Ethiopia. The trip focused on the issue of maternal health, and the issue of child marriage was often raised at many of the sites visited. In some parts of the country, over half the girls are married by the age of 15 and they are expected to have children the following year. Schock met many young girls, some as young as nine, who fled marriage and were trying to survive in Addis Ababa. During the visit, Schock visited a program at a community center called Biruh Tefsu, meaning “Brighter Future” in Ahmaric in Addis Ababa. As of 2010, this program has helped more than 15,000 girls from the ages of 7 to 24 by providing health information (topics include HIV prevention, sexual exploitation and abuse). Many of these girls had fled from rural areas to the city to avoid an arranged marriage. Schock also visited the surgical ward of Hamlin Fistula Hospital. He later mentioned his visit on the House floor – see video. The hospital, which has been operating for nearly four decades, has treated over 30,000 women -- many of them girls -- who had received operations on their fistulas, a birth canal injury often caused by obstructed labor. The hospital provides free fistula repair surgery to about 2,500 women each year.