Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: United States Government’s Response

What are some of the consequences of Child Early Forced Marriage (CEFM)?

CEFM impedes girls’ education and increases early pregnancy and the risk of maternal mortality, obstetric complications, gender-based violence, and HIV/AIDS. Children of young mothers have higher rates of infant mortality and malnutrition compared to children of mothers older than 18.[1],[2] CEFM is also associated with reductions in economic productivity for individuals and nations at large. CEFM is a human rights abuse and a practice that undermines efforts to promote sustainable growth and development. 

Who is at risk?

An estimated 14.2 million girls are married every year before they reach the age of 18. In the developing world, one in three girls are married before the age of 18, with some girls married as young as eight or nine years old. On average globally, only 5 percent of males marry before their 19th birthday.[3],[4] Regionally, 41 percent of girls under 18 are married in East and Central Africa, 29 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 15 percent in the Middle East and North Africa.[5] Approximately, two in five adolescent girls in South Asia are married.[6]

Fighting Child Early Forced Marriage Globally

The United States is taking a whole-of-government approach to address the issue of CEFM by committing up to $5.3 million to prevent CEFM in in regions, countries, and communities where interventions are most needed and most likely to achieve results. Congressional leaders have also recognized the importance of these efforts, and The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will work alongside lawmakers to increase United States support next year to expand efforts to prevent CEFM. Our commitments demonstrate the concerted implementation of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally and the USAID Vision for Action to End Child Marriage and Meet the Needs of Married Children. CEFM projects are integrated into sector specific programs such as health or education to further enhance impact. Since CEFM is strongly linked to educational outcomes, the United States also supports several projects aimed at keeping adolescent girls in school. We will promote Let Girls Learn, a social media and public outreach campaign to engage the global community and raise awareness on the importance of educating and investing in girls. We commit to ramping up these efforts, and partnering closely with civil society and communities to design and implement an enhanced response.

The Department of State includes CEFM as a reporting requirement in its Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. In addition, the United States has co-sponsored resolutions on ending CEFM at the Human Rights Council and in the General Assembly’s Third Committee.  The Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supports international and non-governmental organizations that are working to reduce the incidence of CEFM, including projects focused on increasing community awareness around the legal provisions against CEFM. USAID invests in both research to expand our knowledge on effective interventions to prevent CEFM and programs to address the needs of married adolescents in regions where the practice is most prevalent. For example, in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso, USAID is funding a study on effective community-based approaches to prevent child, early and forced marriage. In Haryana, India, USAID is funding the evaluation of a government-run conditional cash transfer program for girls’ education to assess the impact on delaying CEFM.  In Bangladesh, Nepal, and Yemen, USAID is working to reduce the prevalence of CEFM by addressing the legal, social and economic drivers of the practice.  Finally, the Department of State and USAID will launch a new program in Benin that will raise community awareness of the harmful effects of the practice and the law prohibiting forced marriage and establish “one-stop” GBV care centers to provide medical, legal, psychosocial, and economic support to survivors of GBV, including married children.                        

Forced Marriage in the United States

While the majority of U.S. government resources and programming on this issue are focused internationally, the U.S. government is working to ensure U.S. citizens at risk for forced marriage have access to the resources they need. The U.S. government encourages U.S. citizens who are being forced into a marriage overseas and are still in the United States to contact local authorities or the Department of State in Washington, DC. Consular staff members at U.S. embassies and consulates assist U.S. citizens overseas who are at risk of forced marriage to identify available resources. The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website provides information on forced marriage as well as links to individual U.S. embassies with country-specific information on local laws, customs, and resources. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also supports U.S. community-based programs in areas and populations where girls are at risk for CEFM. Through HHS grants programs, such as the Ethnic Community Self-Help Program and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, the United States supports domestic community-based organizations in populations where girls are most at risk for CEFM. An April 2014 funding announcement for the Ethnic Community Self-Help Program explicitly mentions efforts against CEFM as an allowable activity under the grant. The work done through these programs is driven by community concerns and interest.



[1] International Women’s Health Program. (2009). Early Marriage.

[2] New Insights on Preventing Child Marriage: A Global Analysis of Factors and Programs. (2007). International Center for Research on Women.

[3] International Planned Parenthood Federation and the Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls. (2006). Ending Child Marriage: A Guide for Global Policy Action.

[4] UNICEF. (2012). Progress for Children: A Report Card on Adolescents.

[5] UNFPA. (2012). Marrying Too Young: End child Marriage.

[6] UNFPA. (2012). Marrying Too Young: End child Marriage.

 

Last updated: August 18, 2014

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