Bill declaring child marriage as illegal up for Senate debates
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros has endorsed for plenary approval a bill prohibiting and declaring child marriage as illegal.
As head of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, Hontiveros sponsored on Wednesday Senate Bill No. 1373.
The bill defines child marriage as “any marriage entered into where one or both parties are children as defined in the paragraph above, and solemnized in civil or church proceedings, or in any recognized traditional, cultural or customary manner.”
Hontiveros noted that the Philippines has the 12th highest number of child brides, which is at 726,000.
She pointed out that a child should not be allowed to get married when they are not even allowed to enter into a legal contract before they reach the age of 18.
While poverty is the main motivation for driving families to enter their young children to marriage, another reason is also “existing well-entrenched gender inequality,” she said.
“Female children are falsely seen contributing less to the household and expected to eventually leave and join the families of their husbands, making them of less value than male children,” the senator said in her sponsorship speech.
Under the bill, child marriage would be considered a “public crime.”
A person who causes, fixes, facilitates or arranges a child marriage shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its medium period and a fine of not less than P40,000.
Should the perpetrator be an ascendant, step-parent, or guardian of the minor, the penalty will constitute a 12-year jail time, a fine of not less than P50,000 and the loss of parental authority over the same.
Meanwhile, individuals who perform or officiate the formal rites of child marriage shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its medium period and a fine of not less than P40,000. If they are public officers, they will also be perpetually disqualified from office.
Hontiveros said the bill will also provide “culturally appropriate” programs and services which will be formulated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development as the “duty-bearer.”
“At a time that we, together with the rest of the world, are slowly making headway in ensuring that young girls are protected and able to reach their full potential as human beings,” she said.
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