Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the Senate approval on final reading a bill declaring child marriages illegal

Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the Senate approval on final reading a bill declaring child marriages illegal

The approval on third and final reading by the Senate of a measure declaring child marriages as illegal is a step-forward in strengthening protection of children as one of the vulnerable sectors in the country.

Senate Bill No. 1373 or the proposed Girls Not Brides Act treats a marriage between a minor (below 18 years old) and an adult as a crime, and equally penalises any person who facilitates and solemnises such union.

Ultimately, this affirms the government’s commitment to uphold the best interest of the child by barring child marriage as a form of child abuse that “debases, degrades, and demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of children,” as the bill stressed.

The bill also recognises treaties entered by the government and a domestic piece of legislation for the protection of women and children, including: the UN Convention on the Rights of Child; the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; and Republic Act no. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitations and Discrimination Act.

Equally important is the bill’s recognition that duty-bearers, specifically government agencies and officials, should ensure that women and girls genuinely participate in breathing life to this bill through subsequent programmes and projects—from consultations to every step and stage of decision-making.

While this bill might clash with current cultural practices in the Philippines, we look forward to the culturally-appropriate comprehensive programmes and services to be formulated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in coordination with other government agencies, such as the National Commission on Indigenous People and National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, so we may instill and communicate on the ground the overall effects of child marriages to the health and development of a child.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) joins the proponents of this bill in giving every child, especially young girls, an opportunity to be free from tragic marriages—oftentimes driven by economic and cultural pressures. Let us instead provide better opportunities for children through better access to education and self-growth so that they may carve for themselves the future that they aspire and deserve, with support from a society that equally wishes them the best. ###