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Ending child marriage

Republic Act No. 11596 that was signed on December 10, 2021 by President Rodrigo Duterte, makes the facilitation and solemnization of child marriage as well as cohabitation of adults with children a “public crime.” Officers, parents, guardians and other adults found to have fixed, facilitated, or arranged a child marriage will be punished with a fine of at least P40,000 and a jail term of up to 12 years.

Deputy House Speaker Bernadette Herrera, one of the primary authors of the measure, calls RA 11596 a “major victory” in the campaign to end child marriage in the Philippines. She said the law will help protect children, especially young girls, and hopefully change the trajectory of their lives.

Herrera said the time had come for the Philippines to end the “long-standing disturbing practice” of child marriage, adding that it was a form of violence against children.

In a separate statement, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, who co-authored the measure, said the law would ensure “stronger protection of children from sexual abuse and the effects of early marriage.” She pointed out that the signing of the bill into law came at a time when teenage pregnancy in the country is on an alarming rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with even a child as young as 10 giving birth.

In its State of the World’s Children report published in 2017, the United Nations Children’s Fund said 15 percent of Filipino girls were married before their 18th birthday and 2 percent before the age of 15. The Philippines ranked 12th in the world with the highest absolute number of child brides at 726,000.

The United Nations Population Fund has reported that child brides are more likely to experience domestic violence.

RA 11596 is a long overdue piece of legislation that would surely benefit Filipino children who, until it was made illegal, have been too easily subjected, pressured or tricked into the obligations and demands of married life at such a young age. Now that is a crime to facilitate or arrange child marriages, Filipino children who have yet to enter into adulthood have one less thing to be worried about.*

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