CHR pushes Congress to declare child marriages illegal
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has asked Congress to immediately pass bills that would declare child marriages illegal, amid rising cases of boys and girls being wed even before their 18th birthday.
The CHR said in a statement on Thursday that marriage before legal age is a violation of the children’s fundamental right to dignity and life.
“Marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of the rights of a child that impacts every aspect of a child’s dignity and life. In the Philippines and around the world, child marriage affects both girls and boys, both in urban and rural areas,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.
“Early marriage halts their ability to realize a wide range of human rights as it denies them of their childhood, disrupts their education, increases the risk of violence, jeopardizes their health and safety, and limits full participation in public life,” she added.
De Guia’s remarks came after Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, approved Senate Bill No. 1373.
Under the bill, marriages where “one or both parties are children,” and “solemnized in civil or church proceedings, or in any recognized traditional, cultural or customary manner” are deemed null.
Hontiveros, a known women and child rights advocate, claimed that the Philippines ranks 12th in the world in terms of highest child marriage incidence.
In the House of Representatives, there are also several pending measures seeking protection for children including a bill raising the age of sexual consent to 16, from the current 12 years old.
According to De Guia, two of the factors that force families to allow child marriages are poverty and religious norms. She also cited data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), which said that 15 percent of Filipino girls are married before their 18th birthday, and another 2 percent before they reach 15.
“It is high time that we pass a robust legislative framework geared toward protecting children from the harmful practices of child marriage. Every individual girl and boy should not be robbed of their freedom to make meaningful decisions about their marriage, sexual health, safety and wellbeing, especially at an age when they are not yet physically, emotionally, psychologically, and financially ready,” she explained.
“In addition to passing the law and ensuring enforcement, the Commission believes that ending child marriage will require long-term, sustainable action across many different sectors in our society. The government should also develop programs to prevent child marriages such as empowering young people with information and support networks, while engaging and educating parents and community members about the negative effects of child marriage,” she added.
Edited by JPV
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