Groups urge stronger efforts to end child marriage in PH

Anti-child marriage advocates in the Philippines urged stronger efforts to implement the Prohibition of Child Marriage Law a year after the passage of the milestone legislation.

As part of their commemoration of the International Day of the Girl last Wednesday, October 11, Oxfam Pilipinas and the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) said there is a need to increase government and civil society initiatives to end violence against women and girls, children and forced early marriage.

 “[M]ay we be reminded that each day that passes that Republic Act 11596 or the Prohibition of Child Marriage Law is not fully implemented, is a lost opportunity in keeping girls safe and empowering them to reach their full potentials,” PLCPD executive director Rom Dongeto said.

The Philippines made child marriage illegal with the law’s passage in January 2022, an achievement described by Gabriela Representative and Assistant Minority Leader Arlene Brosas, co-author of the law, as a “historic step” towards the criminalization of child marriage

The 2017 Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey said 1 in 6 Filipino girls are married before they are 18 years old or the legal age of majority.

Every year, at least 12 million girls around the world are married before they turn 18, Oxfam Philippines added.

Despite the legislative breakthrough and the approval of its implementing rules and regulations, however, Oxfam Philippines and the PLCPD said the public’s understanding of the law still needs improvement.

“We cannot simply watch when a young girl’s chance to education and her right to make her own choices are affected. We must counter the spread of harmful norms and nurture well-informed communities that will collectively uphold the rights of every young Filipino girl,” Oxfam Pilipinas Executive Director Erika Geronimo said.

Dongeto noted that ending child marriage requires confronting long-existing norms and behavior change, adding the law’s implementation that institutionalize prevention programs is as important as its prohibitions.

Oxfam Pilipinas and PLCPD said they are implementing an education and information project to strengthen the capacity of both government and civil society organizations to help the law succeed in the country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)