Thank you advocates! Three of the Women's Fund's priority bills (or substitute bills) passed during the 110th General Assembly, making real progress in moving Tennessee from 49 to One.
SB1510/HB2164 - Family Life Curriculum - This bill requires instruction on the detection, intervention, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse as part of a family life curriculum. In the 49 to One report, states are measured on the kind of sex education that is provided to students in schools. This is a critical first step in making sure that Tennessee students are being taught how to protect themselves and others, but there is still work to be done to improve the status of sex education in our state.
SB1949/HB1961 - Suicide Mortality Review and Prevention Act - This bill forms and implements state-based suicide mortality reviews to institute the systemic changes needed to decrease suicide mortality. Tennessee ranked 30th nationally for rates of suicide mortality in the IWPR 49 to One Status of Women report. This Review and Prevention Act is a policy directly designed to address this statistic.
Amendment 2 on SB2268/HB2134 - Combating Child Marriage: Amendment 2 sets a hard-minimum marriage age of 17 with a spouse not more than 4 years older than the minor. It also adds significant penalties to be imposed on anyone attempting to coerce or force marriage and allows a ten-year window for victims of forced marriage to come forward. This takes Tennessee from a state that had essentially no limits on marital age to one of the states with the strongest legislation protecting children and the tenth state to pass legislation against forced or coerced marriage. Women who marry before 18 are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to complete college, more likely to live in poverty, more likely to develop mental illnesses, and more likely to become victims of domestic abuse. These are all measures tracked in the 49 to One report.
As you can see, these bills and your support of them take real steps toward moving from 49 to One. The 111th General Assembly will convene on January 8, 2019. We will work to keep you up to date on new and important legislation facing women and girls in Tennessee. Thank you for helping make Tennessee a better place for women and girls!