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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 01/12/2011

The consequences of child marriage

By Conor Williams

As I noted last month, child marriage is "an easy issue to forget. Child brides across the world have no lobby to maintain congressional and media attention." After the House failed to pass The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act in the lame duck session (it unanimously passed the Senate), child marriage virtually disappeared from media coverage.

Disappeared, that is, until yesterday, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought it up during her trip to Yemen. Clinton argued that the United States should combat extremism in Yemen by helping address its underlying causes. Echoing the position of NGOs like CARE, the International Center for Research on Women and The Elders, Clinton said that women's empowerment is a large part of building a strong, robust civil society. She emphasized that the practice of child marriage is a core challenge for any such effort.

Child marriage is a serious problem in Yemen -- more than a quarter of Yemeni girls are married before the age of 15, and fully half are married before their 18th birthday. Secretary Clinton's focus on the issue in Yemen highlights that this isn't just a human rights issue. Progress towards ending the practice of child marriage will help impoverished communities develop in countless ways. After all, girls who marry young are much less likely to attend school or take an active part in their community's economic life. This is especially tragic, since studies have shown that "When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared with only 30 to 40 percent for a man." Women's empowerment helps to combat global poverty and the extremism that stems from it. Addressing child marriage is a powerful lever for addressing long-term development and national security challenges.

Republicans, led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), helped to kill last year's child marriage bill because of dubious concerns over its cost. They ought to reconsider. Consider the costs of fighting the symptoms of extremism -- more than a trillion dollars spent pursuing the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is short-term thinking, since it doesn't address the root causes of extremism. Investing in international development will be at the core of any long-term solution, and addressing child marriage is a perfect place to start.

By Conor Williams  | January 12, 2011; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Williams  | Tags:  Conor Williams  
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Thanks for this piece. Child marriage is indeed an atrocious thing, a religiously sanctioned form of pedophilic rape.

But I'm not seeing what Secretary Clinton is proposing to do about it, other than tossing off the occasional applause line in a speech. Could you elaborate?

Posted by: Itzajob | January 12, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans, led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), helped to kill last year's child marriage bill because of dubious concerns over its cost."

This is a key quote. When given a choice between a human concern or a choice between a human life and a dollar bill, the lican, loonietarian or TeaP will hump the dollar bill in a near-sexual frenzy while ignoring the human problem.

This is the basic evil of America's domestic enemies: they can and will shed tears over a 3% income tax rise for the richest and greediest people who infest our poor country, but are totally willing to deny health care and housing to Americans who have nothing.

Some might say the wrong-wingers.... I mean right-wingers... are in league with the devil. Others might say they have allied with Al Queda to bring down America. Either way, they are our enemies.

Please note, however, that I do not advocate killing Republicans when I say, "target these traitors for death." I am merely using a metaphor for voting and non-violent political action aimed at getting them out of office. (Wink, wink, wink.)

Posted by: roblimo | January 12, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Did Republicans really object to the "costs" of the child marriage bill? I suspect the real objection is related to abortion and contraception. That is, they'd let a 13-year-old girl die in childbirth rather than give her the means to avoid becoming pregnant in the first place.

Posted by: angelas1 | January 12, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

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