Lady senators lead repeal of crime of ‘premature marriage’

MANILA, Philippines – “There should be no room for laws that perpetuate discrimination against women.”

With women senators leading the effort, the Senate passed on final reading a bill that repeals a provision in the Revised Penal Code that penalizes widows who immediately remarry. The chamber approved the bill on Wednesday, July 30.

Senate Bill 1647 repeals the crime of “premature marriage,” which penalizes widows who marry within 301 days after the death of their husbands, and women who re-marry before the expiration of the 301-day period after legal separation. These women face the penalty of one to 6 months in jail and a fine not above P500.

Senator Nancy Binay is the author of the measure, while Senator Pia Cayetano sponsored the bill as chairperson of the Senate committee on women, family relations, and gender equality.

Senators Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, and Cynthia Villar signed the committee report.

In her explanatory note, Binay said that the bill is part of efforts to change laws discriminating women.

“Although there [has] been no known conviction for violation of Article 351 of the Revised Penal Code, it is high time that Congress takes the necessary step to abolish provisions of our laws which are antiquated and serve no other purpose other than to perpetuate discrimination against women,” Binay said.

The senator pointed out that there were past proposals to amend the provision but none enacted into law.

“Approval of the measure by a male dominant-Senate is the right step toward ensuring the equality of law between men and women,” Binay said on Wednesday.

There are 6 female senators in the 24-member Senate. The other is Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who is on sick leave to seek treatment for lung cancer.   

Cayetano has said her committee is working to repeal other discriminatory provisions in laws like the Family Code.

The Philippine Congress passed in 2012 the landmark reproductive health law, which aims to promote women’s rights by giving poor women access to reproductive health services and supplies like contraception. It also mandates that age-appropriate sex education be taught in schools.

In 2013, the Philippines was named the best performer in gender equality in the Asia Pacific region.

The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report showed that the country ranked 5th among 136 countries measured in areas like economic equality, political participation, health and survival, and educational attainment.

The report though pointed out gaps in women’s economic participation, like in getting senior positions, wages, and leadership levels. –