RUBIO, SHAHEEN INTRODUCE THE GIRLS COUNT ACT

July 10, 2014

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced the Girls Count Act, legislation 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.  

Companion legislation, H.R. 3398, was introduced in October in the House by U.S. Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Betty McCollum (D-MN).

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.  

“Young boys and girls of all ages deserve to be properly recognized and identified. Failing to register children at birth leaves them vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation, yet millions of children around the world continue to be denied this basic human right,” Rubio said. “While both boys and girls fail to receive proper identification in their countries, it is young women who are disproportionately affected. These young girls deserve to be recognized, and they deserve to be counted.

“A nationally recognized proof of birth system is critical to establishing key documentation for a child, which ultimately ensures that child can go on to fully participate and contribute to society,” Rubio added. “The Girls Count Act will help pave the way for women to benefit from new opportunities previously denied to them, and is a strong step forward in the fight against human trafficking and forced labor.”

“Every day women and girls around the world fight to improve conditions for their families and communities, often in the face of gross injustices,” Shaheen said. “The world needs this generation and future generations of women and girls to be recognized and have the opportunity to thrive. The bipartisan Girls Count Act will safeguard the basic human rights of girls everywhere and help them attain the success they aspire to and deserve.”

The Girls Count Act would:

  • Ensure that U.S. foreign assistance programming encourages countries to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 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: World Vision, U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Girl Up Campaign.