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Understanding Child Marriage: CFR InfoGuide

by Rachel Vogelstein
January 10, 2014

Boys and girls pose for pictures after their engagement ceremony in the western Indian state of Gujarat, March 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Amit Dave). Boys and girls pose for pictures after their engagement ceremony in the western Indian state of Gujarat, March 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Amit Dave).

This week, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) launched a new InfoGuide on child marriage that explores how the practice endangers prosperity and stability in the countries in which it is prevalent and undermines U.S. development and foreign policy objectives. The InfoGuide examines the link between child marriage and poverty, poor health, curtailed education, and violence, and demonstrates how this practice harms not only entire families, communities, and economies, but also U.S. interests around the world.

In recent years, Washington has recognized the threat that child marriage poses to U.S. development and foreign policy goals. In 2012, the Obama Administration issued a U.S. strategy to address global violence against women—including the practice of child marriage. That same year, for the first time, the Department of State required all embassies to report on child marriage as part of its annual Human Rights reports, and the U.S. Agency for International Development launched a policy framework to address child marriage through U.S. development programs. And in 2013, Congress enacted a provision under the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization that requires a U.S. strategy to prevent child marriage around the world.

On the international stage, the issue of child marriage has been increasingly recognized as a serious obstacle to achieving global development goals. In 2012, on the first-ever United Nations International Day of the Girl Child, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called global attention to the negative effect child marriage has on stability and prosperity and urged local, regional, and international leaders to address this issue. Last year, the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda—appointed to inform the international development agenda that will replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015—called for an international commitment to end child marriage.

CFR’s Child Marriage InfoGuide explains why ending child marriage has risen in importance on the U.S. and international agenda. As the InfoGuide shows, addressing this practice is not simply a moral issue—it is a strategic imperative to improve global health, education, economic growth, and stability.

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