MANILA – A House of Representatives’ panel has approved in principle a proposal seeking to end child marriages in the country.
During a virtual hearing on Wednesday, the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality approved in principle House Bills 1486, 3899, 5670 and 7922, all of which seek to protect children by prohibiting and declaring child marriage as illegal and impose penalties for violations.
Bukidnon Rep. Maria Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Committee chair, cited the United Nations Children’s Fund data showing that the Philippines has the 12th highest absolute number of child brides in the world at 726,000.
Acosta-Alba said an estimated 15 percent Filipino girls are married before the age of 18, while 2 percent are married before the age of 15.
“As an Asean member state, we already committed to eliminating child early and forced marriages by 2030 in line with the target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of 18 for marriage,” Acosta-Alba said.
In her sponsorship speech, Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera said child marriage denies children of their childhood, disrupts their education, and limits their opportunities.
Herrera cited the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) stating that in developing countries, 9 out of 10 births to adolescent girls occur within a marriage or union and these girls are 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 CEFM (child and early forced marriages) 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,” Herrera said.
She said the perpetration of violence and gender inequality is another negative impact of CEFM.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 20 percent of ever-married women aged 15-49 have experienced domestic and/or intimate partner violence since age 15.
Meanwhile, the National Baseline Survey on Violence against Children reported 80 percent prevalence of all forms of violence against children.
The proposed law would impose penalties against solemnizing officers, parents, guardians, or adults who arranged and consented to a child marriage.
Under Herrera’s HB 1486, the solemnizing officer who solemnized child marriage shall be meted the following penalties: PHP25,000 fine, suspension of license, and required seminar attendance for the first offense; PHP50,000 fine and forfeiture of license for the second offense; and fine and imprisonment for the third offense as provided for under Republic Act 7610.
For parents or guardians who caused, facilitated arranged and consented to a child marriage, the following penalties shall be imposed: suspension of parental authority for six months to one year for the first offense; permanent protection order in favor of the child for the second offense; and imprisonment for the third offense.
Meanwhile, the adult who contracted a child marriage with a minor 12 years and under or who is 10 years or more his junior shall be meted a penalty of prison mayor in its maximum period as provided for in Republic Act 7610, or the law against child abuse.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development shall be the lead implementing agency tasked to create programs that will address the prevalence of child marriage and provide appropriate services to children who were forced to enter into child marriage. (PNA)