Mar 19 2015
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee On Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, And Global Women’s Issues, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today re-introduced the Girls Count Act, a bill directing current U.S. foreign assistance programming to provide assistance to support the rights of women and girls in developing countries by working to establish birth registries in their countries. Rubio and Shaheen introduced similar bipartisan legislation in the previous Congress.
Every year, approximately 51 million children under the age of five are not registered at birth, most of whom are girls. Proof of birth determines a child’s citizenship, nationality, place of birth, parentage and age, which are critical to ensuring children remain a part of society and do not fall victim to dangers such as exploitation.
“There is a massive worldwide problem involving boys and especially girls for whom no official records exist because they were not registered at birth,” said Rubio. “This leaves them vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation, but it also leaves them excluded from accessing basic services in their countries, such as education. For example, this is one way in which China is wrestling with the long-term consequences of its One Child Policy, as many parents who insisted on having more than one children had to keep them secret and unregistered.
“This legislation will encourage other nations to adopt certified proof of birth system to help establish key documentation records for all children, which will help make sure that every child can go on to fully participate and contribute to their societies,” added Rubio.
“The world needs this generation and future generations of women and girls to be recognized, protected and ultimately given the opportunity to thrive,” Shaheen said. “We must take steps to safeguard the basic human rights of persons everywhere so they may attain the success they aspire to and deserve. Our bipartisan bill is a critical step in this effort.”
The Girls Count Act would:
- Ensure that U.S. foreign assistance programming encourages countries to uphold the rule of law and enact laws that ensure boys and girls of all ages are full participants in society by requiring birth certifications and some type of national identity card to ensure all citizen are counted.
- Work to enhance training and capacity-building to developing countries, local NGOs and other civil society organizations to effectively address the needs of birth registries in countries where girls are undercounted.
- Require that the Secretary of State and USAID Administrator include in all relevant congressionally mandated reports and documents the United State foreign assistance and development assistance beneficiaries to the extent possible by age, gender, marital status, location, school enrollment status in all programs and sectors, and how foreign assistance benefits girls.
Organizations that support the Girls Count Act include: U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services and Girl Up Campaign.