International humanitarian and development organization Oxfam welcomed the passage into law of Republic Act 11596, also known as “An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and Imposing Penalties for Violations Thereof.”
The bill banning child marriages in the country, including cohabitation with a minor, has lapsed into law on December 11 after President Rodrigo Duterte did not act on the measure 30 days upon submission to his office.
“After years of advocacy and lobbying, we finally achieved a historic win,” said Lot Felizco, Oxfam Pilipinas country director, in a statement.
“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,” she said.
With other groups calling themselves “Girl Defenders,” Oxfam commended what they described as their “brave champions” in Congress.
Perpetrators who participate and perform child marriage will warrant punishment such as imprisonment of up to 12 years, loss of child custody, and fines of not less than Php40,000.
“But this does not mean that our work is done,” said Felizco. “A multi-sectoral and coordinated implementation approach is critical to ensure this harmful practice ceases,” she said.
“We need to keep working together to ensure a safer and more equal future for Filipino children,” she added.
Noraida Abo, executive director of UnYPhil-Women, a women’s organization based in Lanao del Sur province, cited the need for the leadership of the Bangsamoro region in Mindanao to support the law.
“Ending child, early and forced marriage is a huge win for the future of our Bangsamoro children,” she said. “We are one step closer to achieving our goal where we put an end to Bangsamoro children having children,” Abo added.
Rom Dongeto, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, said the new 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.”
The Philippines ranks 12th worldwide among countries with the highest numbers of child marriages. One in six Filipino girls get married before they turn 18.