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SPSSI Policy News RSS Feed - June 16, 2009

Advocacy Alert!

International Women's Health Coalition Updates SPSSI On the Fight Against Child Marriage

*The legislative action request below originates from the International Women’s Health Coalition, and alerts interested SPSSI members to act in support of eliminating the forced marriage of girls aged 14 and younger.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, anyone below age 18 is defined as a child, unless applicable country law permits attainment of adulthood at an earlier age.  In the majority of developing nations, about 20-70% of girls are (legally or customarily) married before they reach 18 years of age.  In these countries, one in seven girls below age 15 are placed in such a child marriage.

Child marriage is a global concern, associated with a range of individual, social, and physical disadvantages for girls married at an early age.  Child brides are less likely to pursue schooling and to take up life opportunities, while being more likely to experience gender violence in the homes they share with their (often much older) husbands than unmarried girls.  Because child marriage denies a girl the right, and freedom, to be a child, child marriage is a fundamental human rights issue.

Especially girls aged 14 and younger are at risk to experience adverse physical and psychological consequences.  Since child marriage generally leads to pregnancy for child brides, these girls face a much higher risk of health problems associated with pregnancy and childbirth than older mothers.  This is because their physical development is not yet fully completed.  They are also more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) because of their physiological vulnerability and because of the likelihood that their husband is much older, hence more liable to have had multiple sexual partners who may be infected with HIV.

Interested SPSSI members can support the newly introduced State Department Reauthorization, a new bill that includes critical provisions for the prevention of child marriage.  This legislation, H.R. 2410, introduced by Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), authorizes certain appropriations for the State Department, among them to solidify the newly-formed Office on Global Women's Issues, dealing with international issues around the needs of girls and women.

You can support this important legislation, by calling or emailing your Representative and requesting their support of the State Department Reauthorization (H.R. 2410).  For more information, please go to the International Women’s Health Coalition’s webpage, at:

Information sources:

International Women’s Health Coalition issue brief on “Child Marriage: Girls 14 and Younger At Risk”, available at
NGO Committee on UNICEF Working Group on Girls (WGG), November 2008 newsletter, available at

Advocacy Alert!

NY Campaign Against Torture Continues Grassroots Outreach In Support of Anti-Torture Legislation

SPSSI members:  The following message comes from Physicians for Human Rights and the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the New York Campaign Against Torture

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

New York State has an unprecedented opportunity to lead the nation in the fight against torture by holding health professionals complicit in torture accountable.  There is a bill, currently working its way through the New York State Legislature, that would straightforwardly and uncompromisingly ban health professionals from participating in torture or abuse.  I urge you to act now and send an e-mail to your New York State senator and assembly member and urge them to co-sponsor the bill. 

(If you are not a New York  resident, please forward this email to friends and colleagues who live in New York.)

In April, the Bush Administration’s “torture memos” as well as reports by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that doctors and psychologists have been directly involved in the design, justification, supervision and execution of torture at U.S. military and intelligence facilities.  This violates state, federal and international law and professional ethics.

Despite proof of wrongdoing, the health professionals involved in torture still hold their professional licenses to practice.  To ensure accountability for torture and to prevent such atrocities from happening again, New York State legislators have introduced Bills A 6665-b in the Assembly and S4495-A in the Senate, new legislation that:

•      Confirms that NY-licensed health professionals’ duty to do no harm applies to their professional relationships with all patients and under all employers;

•      Reaffirms that health professionals licensed in New York are prohibited from involvement in torture or other abuse of prisoners, wherever that abuse takes place;

•      Removes NY-licensed health professionals from interrogations; and

•      Helps NY-licensed health professionals resist unlawful orders that could place them at risk of criminal prosecution and civil damages lawsuits.

You can read the full text of the bill on the Center for Constitutional Rights’ When Healers Harm campaign website.

Take action now to make sure this bill gets to the floor of the New York State Legislature and passes this term.  Send an e-mail to your elected officials and urge them to co-sponsor the bill.


Steven Reisner, advisor on psychological ethics, Physicians for Human Rights 

Nathaniel Raymond, Physicians for Human Rights

Deborah Popowski, Center for Constitutional Rights

on behalf of the New York Campaign Against Torture (NYCAT)

The New York Campaign against Torture (NYCAT) is a coalition of health professionals, attorneys, human rights advocates, students and other groups or individuals committed to abolishing the torture and other forms of abuse of persons in custody at home and abroad, and to guaranteeing their humane treatment in accordance with domestic and international human rights standards.  Through our Health Professionals and Torture Project, NYCAT aims to prevent health professionals’ involvement in torture and other forms of abuse.



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                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin