CHR slams Bangsamoro body for move vs anti-child marriage law
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday said it was “very disappointed and deeply concerned” about reports that members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) have passed a resolution urging President Rodrigo Duterte to veto a recently passed law banning child marriages.
In a statement, the commission said it was “alarmed that these members have unilaterally claimed that the Bangsamoro community does not support the law and that some members have claimed that child marriage is embedded in the Muslim culture.
The CHR, which is also the country’s gender ombudsman, was referring to the landmark Republic Act No. 11596, which finally bans marrying off any individual before he or she is 18 years old, a practice often seen in indigenous and Muslim communities in the country. The law was signed by President Duterte on Dec. 10, 2021, and released by Malacañang on Jan. 6.
Both local and international groups see its passage as long overdue and a major milestone in protecting the welfare and rights of children, especially since the Philippines is a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
‘Very hard to change’
But a day after a copy of RA 11596 was released earlier this month, the BTA, the interim governing body of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), had passed a resolution appealing to the President to stop the implementation of the law.
BARMM Labor and Employment Minister Romeo Sema earlier maintained that getting married at an early age among Filipino Muslim men and women was part of their culture that “is very hard to change.”
Another Muslim leader in Maguindanao province, Anwar Emblawa, also said that Islam allows women to get married after they reached the stage of puberty.
The commission urged the BTA members to “listen to their women and girls” and to “adopt a view of Sharia that is not opposed to the protection of women and girls’ rights.”
It also asked the BTA to reach out to women’s organizations and leaders to thresh out their concerns and to ensure “continuing dialogue so that the gains of this law will be fully realized.”
‘Further from the truth’
The CHR also reminded the body that the law went through rigorous deliberations and consultations with religious leaders and communities, especially with women and girls in Muslim and indigenous communities. Many representatives from their communities have already attested to the urgency of the law, it added.
“The claim then that this law lacks support from the Bangsamoro community couldn’t be further from the truth. They can only come from individuals who refuse to acknowledge and discount the critical participation of women and girls and who continue to cling to harmful practices even as they violate basic human rights,” the commission said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.