House bill seeks to crim­i­nal­ize child mar­riage in PH

Watchmen Daily Journal - - Nation - (Mara Cepeda, Rap­

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 Ber­nadeƒe 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, aƒen­dance 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

For par­ents:

• 1st of­fense: Sus­pen­sion of parental au­thor­ity be­tween 6 months to one year, sub­ject to the de­ter­mina!on and wriƒen 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.)

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