Washington, DC — On the occasion of today’s Girl Summit, a gathering of governments, NGOs, and leaders from around the world, the U.S. government failed to issue any meaningful commitments to address forced marriage in the U.S.
“Strong leadership at the federal level is critical to addressing the problem of forced marriage in the U.S.,” said Jeanne Smoot, Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy at Tahirih Justice Center. “Today marked a missed opportunity for the United States to join the UK, Canada, and many other Western countries that have taken up the problem in earnest and are working toward solutions to protect and support girls and women inside their borders who are at risk of forced marriage.”
Co-convened by the government of the UK and UNICEF, the summit sought to build on current efforts to ensure girls’ and women’s equality and, specifically, to rally a global movement to end female genital mutilation and child/early/forced marriage everywhere within a generation.
To date, the campaign to address the problem of forced marriage in the U.S. has been led by Tahirih and other NGOs in its nearly 400-member National Network to Prevent Forced Marriage. On the same day as the summit, Tahirih launched a national awareness-raising tour including 18 events in 6 cities in the coming months.
“The U.S. government’s failure to speak to the incidence and impact of forced marriage in the U.S., and the need to address this serious human rights abuse right here at home, was all the more disappointing given findings of Tahirih’s 2011 national survey showing that as many as 3,000 cases of forced marriage were encountered by over 500 service providers in just two years,” said Smoot.
In her presentation to more than 200 attendees to the parallel Girl Summit held in Washington, DC, also co-sponsored by the UK, Smoot articulated a number of recommendations, such as building forced marriage capacity in existing government-funded programs (like national crisis hotlines). A national sign-on letter sent to U.S. Department of State Secretary Kerry in October 2013 also made several specific recommendations for improving the U.S. consular response when U.S. citizens are taken abroad for forced marriages.