HomeNewsPhilippine ‘girl defenders’ call for urgent passage of bill ending child marriage

Philippine ‘girl defenders’ call for urgent passage of bill ending child marriage

There are an estimated 726,000 child brides in the Philippines, making it the 12th highest in the world in terms of absolute numbers

In celebration of Women’s Month, women’s and children’s rights activists, dubbed “girl defenders” called on the Philippine House of Representatives to immediately pass a bill declaring child marriage as illegal.

Members of an alliance of “girl defenders” reiterated the urgent need for the Lower House of Congress to criminalize child marriage.

The call came at the heels of the Senate’s historic passage of Senate Bill 1373, also known as the “Girls Not Brides Act” on third and final reading last November 9.

“All eyes are now on the House of Representatives to bring this measure to the finish line,” said PLCPD executive director Rom Dongeto.




Three other bills were filed in the House of Representatives seeking to penalize facilitators of child marriage and create mechanisms to transform harmful attitudes and stereotypes underpinning violence against young girls.

The bills have been referred to the Committee on the Welfare of Children and are awaiting committee deliberation.

“This measure packs a hefty legal punch,” said Lot Felizco, Oxfam Philippines country director.

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“Perpetrators who participate and perform child marriage will face punishment, including fines, loss of child custody, and prison,” she said.

The law, supported by education and child protection programs, aims to safeguard hundreds of thousands of girls and boys from being forced into marriage and give children full and equal legal protection against abuse, wherever they may be in the country.

“Gender equality cannot wait and, so, this law must be passed right now,” said Felizco.

There are an estimated 726,000 child brides in the Philippines, making it the 12th highest in the world in terms of absolute numbers.

While poverty and inequality are considered the top drivers of early marriage, other emerging factors significantly contribute to the increase in cases.

“Eliminating violence against women should start in eliminating violence against girls, and eliminating all the barriers in creating a better and safer space for girls,” said human rights lawyer Virginia Lacsa Suarez, secretary general of the group Kilusan.

“Child marriage is a social, cultural and institutional violence, thus the importance of this bill to deconstruct this violence,” she said.

A 2019 survey by the Oxfam-led “Improving Availability of Reproductive Health Services in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” or the ARCHES Project, showed that 253 or 24 percent out of the 1,058 respondents coming from Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and the BaSulTa regions (Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) were cases of child marriage, and 97 percent of them involved girls.

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