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Ending Child Marriage Should Be ‘Strategic Imperative’ For U.S.

“Child marriage is a global epidemic that occurs across regions, cultures, and religions,” and the practice “is undoubtedly a violation of human rights,” Rachel Vogelstein, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an adjunct professor of women’s human rights at Georgetown University, writes in an Atlantic opinion piece. “What happens to an individual girl affects the stability of her family, community, economy, and nation, which in turn has broad implications for U.S. foreign policy,” she continues, adding, “As I demonstrate in a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations, a body of evidence shows that child marriage undermines U.S. interests in development, prosperity, and stability.”

“Research suggests that child marriage often curtails education for young girls, which not only undercuts their potential but also stifles economic progress,” Vogelstein writes, adding, “Child marriage also undermines global health, a priority on which the United States spends billions of dollars in foreign aid every year.” In addition, “U.S. security interests are … weakened by child marriage,” she writes, providing examples. Noting the U.S. Congress in March reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act with “a provision that requires the Secretary of State to develop a U.S. strategy to combat the international scourge of child marriage,” Vogelstein states, “As the Obama administration develops this strategy in a time of fiscal austerity, policymakers would do well to remember that combating child marriage is not only a moral imperative — it is a strategic imperative.” She concludes, “The success of U.S. efforts to foster economic growth, improve global health, and promote stability and security will grow if this persistent practice comes to an end” (5/22).