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Congress Advances “Girls Count” Legislation

On May 23, the Senate approved, by unanimous consent, the Girls Count Act (S. 802). On May 21, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved their versions of the Girls Count Act, S. 802, and H.R. 2100, respectively.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), would authorize the secretary of State and the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support programs that “contribute to improved civil registration and vital statistics systems with a focus on birth registration.” The bill finds that the lack of birth registration for girls can exacerbate women’s and girls’ vulnerability to trafficking, child marriage, lack of access to health and education services, reduced unemployment, and can inhibit their ability to purchase or inherit land and other assets, among many other issues.

The bill would “promote programs that build the capacity of developing countries’ national and local legal and policy frameworks to prevent discrimination against girls, and help increase property rights, social security, land tenure, and inheritance rights for women.” The measure also would authorize the secretary and the administrator to cooperate with multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank and the United Nations, to promote such programs.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved S. 802, as amended by substitute amendment, by voice vote; the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved H.R. 2100 by voice vote.

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