House bill seeks to criminalize child marriage in PH
MANILA – Two lawmakers in the House of Representa!ves want to criminalize child marriage, including its facilita!on and solemniza!on, in the Philippines.
Bagong Henerasyon Representa!ve Bernadee Herrera Dy and Albay 1st District Representa!ve Edcel Lagman filed House Bill (HB) No. 8440 on Wednesday, October 10, a copy of which was sent to reporters yesterday.
The bill would declare the act of child marriage, its facilita!on, and solemniza!on as "public crimes."
"These acts are grave [forms] of child abuse and exploita!on as they gravely threaten and endanger the survival and normal development of children physically, emo!onally, and psychologically and can be ini!ated by any concerned individual," said Sec!on 4 of HB 8440.
Sec!on 5 also states that a child marriage would be considered void ab ini!o or void from the beginning.
HB 8440 would repeal all other laws, decrees, execu!ve orders, issuances, rules, and regula!ons that would be "inconsistent" with its provisions.
The United Na!ons Popula!on Fund said that more than 650 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday, while 21% of young women aged 20 to 24 years old around the globe were child brides.
In the Philippines, the 2017 Na!onal Demographic and Health Survey said that one in 5 girls is a mother by 19 years old.
Lawyer Virginia Lacsa Suarez said child marriage usually happens in Muslim and indigenous peoples communi!es in the Philippines.
The Code of Muslim Personal Laws says a girl may be married at the age of puberty or the onset of first menstrua!on. A girl is presumed to have reached the age of puberty by 15. The minimum age of marriage for boys is at 15 years old.
What would be the punishment?
If enacted into law, HB 8440 would punish solemnizing officers and parents of children who arranged and consented to a child marriage. For solemnizing officers:
• 1st offense: P25,000 fine, suspension of license for 6 months, aendance to seminars or learning sessions on human rights, child's rights and marriage, and the child marriage law
• 2nd offense: P50,000 fine and forfeiture of license
• 3rd offense: Fine and imprisonment as provided for by Republic Act (RA)
No. 7610 or the Special Protec!on of Children Against Abuse, Exploita!on, and Discrimina!on Act
• 1st offense: Suspension of parental authority between 6 months to one year, subject to the determina!on and wrien recommenda!on from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) "considering the best interest of the child"
• 2nd offense: Permanent protec!on order "in favor of the child"
• 3rd offense: Imprisonment as provided for by RA 7610. Custody of the child will be transferred to the DSWD un!l the child "reaches the age of majority" or will be able to protect herself or himself.
What are advocates saying?
Pro-children's rights advocates are backing HB 8440 and are calling on lawmakers to pass it.
Youth leader Nor-Asiah Macasilang from Lanao del Sur said that while she is not a vic!m herself, child marriage is prevalent in her community.
"In our place, when your parents [tell] you to marry someone, then you cannot just say that you can't marry that man because I don't like him. No. Once they [tell] you that you have to marry someone, even if you don't know him and even if you don't know his iden!ty, then you will have to [marry him], " said Macasilang in a press conference on HB 8440 on Wednesday.
"They are forcing you to marry someone because they thought that will be good for you, that will be good for your future. But they're not thinking that it will ruin your life in the future. Because you are not actually financially, emo!onally, and physically ready, because you're s!ll young and you're not in the right place to think [about] your future,” she added.
Suarez also said culture should no longer be used as an excuse for abuse.
"It should not be used to jus!fy violence. Kasi palagay ko, 'di tayo magtatalo-talo when it comes to how child marriage is affec!ng the health, all aspects eh sa buhay ng isang bata," she said.
(I think that we will all agree on how child marriage affects the health and all other aspects of the life of a child.)