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You have an opinion, but do you have what it takes to be heard?

Conor Williams
Washington, DC

Conor Williams

I’m working on a PhD in Government at Georgetown, so I’m full of ideals, but my optimism is tempered by experience.

Child Marriage: The Easiest Vote in Congress

Editor's note: The contestants were given free rein for their second post of the day. You can read Conor Williams's earlier post here.

 

Almost everything facing Americans right now is overwhelmingly difficult. Want to spend the nation out of its economic woes? Good luck getting that past deficit hawks. Want to bring down the deficit? Good luck keeping subsidy-loving special interest groups happy and taxes low. These legislative issues can seem complex and impersonal, but this isn't the case with every bill on the Hill.

 

Consider the easiest voting decision facing current members of Congress. It's the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. Child marriage is a massive human rights issue throughout the world, and it's completely indefensible. Do you have a daughter? A sister? A niece? Where should she be in her early teens--in labor or in a classroom? In the last 8 years, 60 million girls in developing countries were married before they turned 18. Each day 25,000 additional young girls become brides. Though the United States spends over $450 million on international development annually, child marriage prevents 50% of girls in developing countries from accessing the programs it supports.

 

Child marriage can also be related to horrifying human rights abuses, such as female genital mutilation. It is far more than an intrinsic abuse of young girls' human rights. It also can lead to dire economic, social, and health consequences for these young women, their families and their communities. This video from The Girl Effect outlines a number of these. Worst of all, since young brides' bodies have not yet fully developed, their pregnancies are far more likely to lead to serious or fatal maternal or childbirth complications. Put bluntly, child marriage is a global disaster, because it prohibits girls from getting an education and denies them the chance to participate in economic, social, or political life. Congress can respond.

 

The bill has bipartisan backing in both houses, along with overwhelming support from non-profit organizations like the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and CARE. It requires the White House and State Department to devise plans for addressing child marriage wherever the United States commits development aid. It recognizes the gravity of the problem and authorizes the President to pursue solutions "through multilateral, nongovernmental and faith-based organizations."

 

Crucial in the current environment, it's not an expansion of existing funding, it's an important shift in our development priorities. As ICRW's Dan Martin puts it, "It's a matter of making sure existing funds are spent more efficiently. Since child marriage undermines so many development goals, addressing it will ensure that the money we spend on girls education, reducing maternal mortality and preventing HIV will be more effective."  

 

Most agonizing of all, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently voted unanimously to send the bill to the full Senate. It's nearly there. To leave it hanging in the coming session would be a scandal. Every moment of delay extinguishes hope for more young girls all over the world. By making it law, Congress will almost immediately make the world a better place. 

 

Read more posts from this round. See what the judges are saying. And cast your vote on Friday.

By Conor Williams  |  October 20, 2010; 1:30 PM ET  | Category:  Blogging Challenge
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Comments

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I actually read an article in a magazine a couple years ago and felt compelled to write to congress to have this bill past. The things that these these young ladies go through is very inhumane. They are basically being raped and forced to have multiple children and many do not survive and if they do survive they get illnesses in there country that they can not cure. So yes, I am happy that we are a least coming close.

Posted by: Dee18 | October 28, 2010 3:50 PM
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Termiteavenger, Why is it superficial to take a stand on a human rights issue? This is not a religious issue, it is an issue of power. It is a matter of protecting the rights of children.

Posted by: Teacher18 | October 21, 2010 6:49 AM
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Maybe I expect more of bloggers, but this is pretty superficial. Perhaps an interesting angle would be, if we are going to use aide to try to influence other countries' religious and societal beliefs, such as through this type of bill, does that then simply confirm colonialism. After all, doesn't this assume we are the superior, more knowledgeable culture?

Posted by: termiteavenger | October 21, 2010 2:43 AM
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Thank you for bringing attention to this important issue. I'm starting to think that you are fit to win this whole thing, young man.

Posted by: JamesBoobson | October 20, 2010 11:17 PM
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Well-said GMH. Chucky-el, what are you thinking? I can't imagine how it could possibly be a good idea for children to be married rather than, for example, going to school.

Posted by: waltersobchak2 | October 20, 2010 9:08 PM
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Conor- thank you for posting on this important issue, it's one that's not paid enough attention to (and well written too-you've done your research!).

@Chuck-El, I'd suggest you do a little bit more research on the issue before you make such claims. Conor cites ICRW (www.icrw.org), they have done some very interesting work on this issue, and, you'll find, marriage is definitely not the solution for most of these girls.

Posted by: GMH26 | October 20, 2010 8:53 PM
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Thanks for raising attention to this issue, Conor. I didn't know anything about it. If it somehow doesn't pass, it will be a clear indication of just how broken Congress is.

Posted by: fp26 | October 20, 2010 8:30 PM
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Statistics like these are sobering. Thank you for reminding us all.

Let's hope Congress really does want to make the world a better place.

Posted by: Teacher18 | October 20, 2010 8:30 PM
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Not your best work. While I think most generally agree it is much more complicated, starting with millions dying prematurely in every year in those same developing countries. And sometimes child marriage, under 18 as you define it, can be a good thing in desperate third world situations.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 20, 2010 8:18 PM
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Conor,

Thanks for using this contest as an opportunity to bring some attention to an important issue that has gotten virtually no media coverage. I definitely hadn't heard of it until I read your post. Hard to imagine that anyone is opposed to this bill.

Way to do some reporting on this one too! Didn't know you had that in your arsenal as well!

Posted by: waltersobchak2 | October 20, 2010 2:28 PM
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