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Duterte signs into law bill banning child marriage

By NICK GARCIA Published Jan 06, 2022 2:19 pm

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill banning and penalizing child marriage in the Philippines.

Republic Act 11596 or An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage has been signed by Duterte on Dec. 10, 2021, a copy of the signed bill released by Malacañang today, Jan. 6, showed.

"This is a major victory in our campaign to end child marriage in the Philippines," Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, a co-author of the bill, said in a statement. "This law will help protect children, especially young girls, and hopefully change the trajectory of their lives."

R.A. 11596 defines child marriage as the formal marriage between children under 18 years of age or between an adult and a child.

The measure considers as unlawful acts the union or cohabitation outside of wedlock between an adult and a child, or between children below 18. It effectively renders as illegal the provision in the Code of Muslim Personal Laws which allows "any Muslim male at least fifteen years of age and any Muslim female of the age of puberty or upwards and not suffering from any impediment" to get married.

It also gives Family Code teeth, because while the code prohibits non-Muslim Filipinos from getting married before turning 18, it has no penal provisions.

Under R.A. 11596, solemnizing officers, parents, guardians, those who cause, fix, facilitate or arrange a child marriage, as well as the adult partner of the child, will be slapped with a fine of up to P50,000 and prison term of up to 12 years. A public officer breaking the law would also be perpetually disqualified from office.

Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas welcomed the development, saying the law is a "historic step" that ensures stronger protection of children from sexual abuse and the effects of early marriage.

“The legislation’s approval also comes a time when teenage pregnancy in the country is on an alarming rise amid the pandemic, with a child as young as 10 giving birth," Brosas said in a statement. "We really need to step in and stop the trend while we seek to strengthen protective and support services for children."

In filing the measure alongside Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman in October 2018, Herrera-Dy cited data from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which showed that in developing countries, nine out of 10 births to adolescent girls occur within a marriage or union. They're vulnerable to pregnancy-related complications, which are among the leading causes of mortality among adolescents around the world.

"Women and girls' development is hindered by (child and early forced marriages)," she said, "as married girls most likely drop out of school and lose the chance to be educated and gain skills and knowledge which will help her gain a good job and earn for herself and her family."