A bill declaring child marriage illegal in the Philippines has been passed on its third and final reading.
Senate Bill No. 1371, also known as the “Girls Not Brides Act,” was unanimously approved by Senators on Monday, November 9.
The measure was principally authored and sponsored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality.
“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,” she said after the Senate approved the measure.
Based on data from the United Nations Population Fund, 1 in every 6 girls in the Philippines marry before the legal age of 18.
The Philippines was also listed as the 12th country with the highest number of children married under 18 years old with 726,000, according to Hontiveros.
“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,” Hontiveros said.
“We tell them their health matters to us. Their education matters to us. We give them a fighting chance,” she added.
Under the bill, any person who causes, fixes, facilitates or arranges a child marriage will be fined P40,000 or suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period, which is eight years and a day to 10 years.
Should the perpetrator of the child marriage be an ascendant, step parent or guardian of the minor, the punishment will be prision mayor in its maximum period of 10 years and a day to 12 years, a P50,000 fine, and the loss of parental authority over the minor.
Any person who performs or officiates the formal rites of child marriage will suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its medium period, a fine of at least P40,000, and disqualification from office in the case of public officials.
The Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development has been enlisted to take the lead in the measure’s implementation.
The bill was co-authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Leila de Lima, Emmanuel Joel Villanueva, Maria Josefa Imelda Marcos, Juan Edgardo Angara and Francis Pangilinan.