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.
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)