Lawmakers hope to reduce child marriages

July 17, 2007 at 10:03 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 17 (UPI) -- Last year, $623 million in U.S. funds went to countries where girls as young as 12 are forced to marry, lawmakers focused on stopping the abuse say.

The United States aided countries with high child-marriage rates, including including Bangladesh, Mali and Mozambique, USA Today reported Tuesday.

Legislation to be introduced in Congress this month would authorize $100 million over four years to try to stop the practice, most prevalent in West Africa and South Asia, the newspaper said.

Other bills would require the State Department to include child-marriage statistics in annual human rights reports on other countries.

"Every year in poor countries, millions of girls -- preteens and teens -- become the wives of older men," said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn. "This custom is not marriage, but rather sanctioned sexual abuse and a human rights violation that destroys girls' lives."

An estimated 51 million women worldwide, now 20-24, were married before age 18, the newspaper reported, and 100 million more girls will become child brides during the next decade.

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