Last week, Congressional Republicans blocked a bill that would help prevent child marriage and related abuses around the world, especially in the countries where forced marriage is most epidemic. Why would the "family values" party oppose fighting child marriage, which has often been referred to as "legal pedophilia?" Mostly because of irrational fears the bill would somehow fund abortion, despite the fact that abortion is never mentioned. Don't let the GOP be the reason children continue to be sold into marriage. International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010 would integrate child marriage prevention into pre-existing development programs through USAID, create a national plan to combat child marriage, establish a multi-year strategy to empower girls at risk of child marriage, and require reports on human rights practices, including a description of the status of child marriage, from problem countries. If passed, it would go a long way toward giving resources to the over 60 million young girls who are already married and preventing 40 million more from being forced to marry over the next couple decades. Child marriage often means rape, abuse, denial of education, and continued inequality for women. But the child marriage act can break that cycle by empowering girls before they are forced to marry.
However, despite the fact that the bill passed the Senate unanimously, only 12 Republicans voted for it in the House, thereby failing to pass the bill. Ironically, some of he 112 co-sponsors didn't even vote for the bill. The reasons cited by the GOP were expenses (it would cost $108 million, which is less than 1% of the budget for the war on drugs) and "concerns that funding will be directed to NGOs that promote and perform abortion and efforts to combat child marriage could be usurped as a way to overturn pro-life laws." The are two main problems with these objections. The first is that while $108 million sounds like a lot of money to us, it's a pretty small amount in the world of Congressional budgets. The second is that nowhere in the bill is there any mention of abortion, reproductive health, or family planning. This bill isn't about paying for women to have abortions; it's about educating and empowering young girls to stay in school and grow up before making a decision about getting married and starting a family.
It's ridiculous that the irrational fear that any law that aids women in any way will somehow promote abortion is what's keeping children around the world enslaved in abusive marriages. As Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who sponsored the bill, said in a press release:
The action on the House floor stopping the Child Marriage bill will endanger the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. These young girls, enslaved in marriage, will be brutalized and many will die when their young bodies are torn apart while giving birth. Those who voted to continue this barbaric practice brought shame to Capitol Hill.
Tell House Republicans that phantom abortions and penny pinching are not good enough reasons to allow millions of girls and women to remain enslaved in marriages around the world. Ask your member of Congress to support the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010.