Senate passes bill criminalizing child marriage

The Senate on Monday, November 9, passed on 3rd and final reading a bill that criminalizes child marriage.

In a unanimous vote, senators approved Senate Bill No. 1373 or the "Girls not Brides Act." It prohibits marriage between minors – persons below 18 years old – or between a minor and an adult.

It also punishes persons who cause, fix, arrange, or officiate a child marriage.

"The issue of child early and forced marriages is one that is largely invisible to us here in Metro Manila, but it is a tragic reality for scores of young girls who are forced by economic circumstances and cultural expectations to shelve their own dreams, begin families they are not ready for, and raise children even if their own childhoods have not yet ended," said Senator Risa Hontiveros, the bill's author and sponsor, after the vote.

"Today, we give our girls a chance to dream, a chance to define their futures according to their own terms. We defend their right to declare when they are ready to begin their families. We tell them their health matters to us. Their education matters to us. We give them a fighting chance," she added.

Under the proposed measure, any person who causes, fixes, facilitates, or arranges a child marriage shall be meted prision mayor in its medium period – 8 years and a day to 10 years – and be fined at least P40,000.

However, if the perpetrator of the child marriage is an "ascendant" or authority figure such as a parent, stepparent, or guardian of the minor, the punishment will be prision mayor in its maximum period of 10 years and a day to 12 years, and a fine of at least P50,000. They will also lose their parental authority over the victim.

Those who "solemnize" – officiate or perform the marriage rite – involving a minor will be punished with prision mayor in its medium period, a fine of at least P40,000, and disqualification from office in the case of public officials.

The bill states that any child marriage is considered void from the start, without need for annulment.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development is enlisted to take the lead in the measure's implementation, including the provision of services for children forced into marriage. Other concerned government agencies are to take charge of the different aspects of preventing and penalizing child marriage.

A counterpart measure, House Bill No. 8440, is still pending at the House of Representatives. It will take the passage of the House bill and the concurrence of the President to enact the bill into law. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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