Council on Foreign Relations Press
The practice of child marriage is a violation of human rights. Every day, girls around the world are forced to leave their families, marry against their will, endure sexual and physical abuse, and bear children while still in childhood themselves. This practice is driven by poverty, deeply embedded cultural traditions, and pervasive discrimination against girls. Yet in many parts of the world, this ancient practice still flourishes: estimates show that nearly five million girls are married under the age of fifteen every year, and some are as young as eight or nine years old.
Child marriage, however, is not simply a human rights violation. It is also a threat to the prosperity and stability of the countries in which it is prevalent and undermines U.S. development and foreign policy priorities. Child marriage perpetuates poverty over generations and is linked to poor health, curtailed education, violence, instability, and disregard for the rule of law. Its effects are harmful not only to girls, but also to families, communities, and economies—and to U.S. interests—around the globe.
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Rachel Vogelstein is a fellow in the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is also an adjunct professor of women's human rights at Georgetown University. Prior to joining CFR, Vogelstein was director of policy and senior adviser in the Office of Global Women's Issues within the Office of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the U.S. Department of State, where she served as a member of the White House Council on Women and Girls. An attorney by training, Vogelstein practiced law as senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center in Washington, DC, and was awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to work on women's health policy. She has lectured widely on women's rights, including at the U.S. Congressional Women's Caucus, U.S. Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Harvard Law School. A recipient of the Secretary of State's Superior Honor Award, Vogelstein earned a BA magna cum laude from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a JD cum laude from Georgetown Law School, and clerked for the Honorable Thomas L. Ambro on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
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