Anti-child marriage law draws approval from int’l aid groups to underground revolutionary orgs

Children rights advocates of various persuasions hailed the passage of the law banning child marriages in the Philippines, describing the measure as a step forward in protecting children from sexual abuse and the effects of child marriage.

In separate statements, a women’s political party, an international aid organization, a legislators’ committee, even an underground revolutionary group hailed the signing into law of Republic Act (RA) No. 11596, also known as “An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and Imposing Penalties for Violations Thereof.”

House of Representatives (HOR) Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas welcomed the new law she says ensures stronger protection of children from abuse and early social and economic burden.

“This is a historic step towards the criminalization of child marriage, which has trapped several Filipino girls into unwanted and early child-bearing and child-rearing responsibilities and even into cycles of abuse,” Brosas, co-author of the new law, said.

The government announced on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte signed the measure last December 10, International Human Rights Day.

The law bans any marriage involving children, including informal unions or cohabitation outside of wedlock between an adult and a child.

The law penalizes persons who cause child marriages with imprisonment and fines, including parents and those who officiates them.

Parents involved in the crime shall also suffer perpetual loss of parental authority.

The law likewise penalizes adults who cohabit with a child outside wedlock.

More praise

International humanitarian and development organization Oxfam commended the law’s champions in the HOR and Senate, saying its passage and approval by the President is a “historic win.”

“Banning child, early, and forced marriage will give women and girls the power to make free and informed choices, enabling them to break free from the unending cycle of poverty, violence, and inequality,” Oxfam said.

Even the underground regional revolutionary group National Democratic Front in Bicol (NDF-Bicol) hailed the new measure, saying it adds to the legal recourses female children may utilize in defense of their right to self-determination.

The victory contributes to the eventual defeat of the exploitative system that confine women’s roles to the household and bed, NDF-Bicol added.

Policy group Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), instrumental in pushing for the bill, said one in six Filipino girls get married before reaching the age of 18.

“The Philippines ranks 12th worldwide among countries with the highest numbers of child marriages,” PLCPD said.

 “The Prohibition of Child Marriage Law is a landmark legislation and a legacy of this Congress to women and girls who have long been suffering from the ill effects of child marriage,” PLCPD executive director Rom Dongeto said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Group lauds impending passage of bill vs child marriage in PH

An international humanitarian and development group lauded the impending passage of a bill seeking to end child marriage in the Philippines.

In a statement, Oxfam Pilipinas said it welcomes the House of Representatives Committee on Women and Gender Equality’s (CWGE) decision to approve in principle a proposed bill seeking to end child marriage in the country. 

In a hearing Wednesday, May 19, the committee approved House Bills nos. 1486, 3899, 5670 & 7922 and directed its secretariat to draft a unified version of the proposed laws for possible approval at its next hearing.

The bills seek to address the legal loopholes that allow child marriage in the Philippines and would strengthen child protection mechanisms to prevent further acts of violence and abuse, Oxfam Pilipinas said.

Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, an author of one of the bills, said there is an urgent need for a national law to prohibit child marriage.

“[This is to] ensure that all Filipino children have the opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential,” Herrera-Dy said.

CWGE chairperson Malou Acosta-Alba acknowledged that 12 million girls from all over the world are married before the age of 18 every year.

“That’s 23 girls every minute,” she said.

Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas also lauded the development, saying her party supports the CWGE in pushing for the “inalienable rights of women and girls and in registering the essence of consent.”

The Senate unanimously passed a similar measure called Senate Bill No. 1373 or the “Girls Not Brides” bill last November 9.

The “Girls Not Brides” bill seeks to prohibit marriage between minors – persons below 18 years old – as well as between a minor and an adult.

Any person who causes, fixes, facilitates or arranges a child marriage shall be fined at least P40,000 and face a prison sentence between 8 years and a day and 10 years, the Senate Bill proposes.

Grave human rights violation

Oxfam Pilipinas Gender Justice Program Manager Jeanette Dulawan said child marriage is a grave violation of human rights and a serious public health issue. 

“As with other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and poverty. Early marriage is seen as a way to ‘sanction’ girls for premarital sexual activity and pregnancy outside marriage,” Dulawan said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said the Philippines has the 12th highest absolute number of child brides in the world at 726,000.

An estimated 15% of Filipina girls are married before the legally-allowable age of 18, the agency said.

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) also explained that child marriage is practiced by some religions and cultures in the country.

Some allow the marriage of a female at the age of puberty, which is presumed upon reaching the age of fifteen, the PCW said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)