Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, supporting the passage on second reading of the Senate Bill declaring child marriage as illegal

Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, supporting the passage on second reading of the Senate Bill declaring child marriage as illegal

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) welcomes the passage on second reading of Senate Bill No. 1373 or ‘Girls Not Brides Act’ on Monday, 12 October 2020—a day after the observance of the International Day of the Girl Child.

While the country is still in the middle of a health crisis, such legislative move is a welcome development especially now that there is an increasing number of children falling into poverty due to pandemic. Girls in the poorest households are more vulnerable and at risk of early or forced marriage. The current situation demands an immediate and stronger protection for children against possible abuse by imposing sanctions on individuals who participate in the practice of child marriage.

The CHR reiterates its previous stand on this issue that marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of the rights of a child that impacts every aspect of a child’s dignity and life. Child marriage undermines girls’ health including sexual and reproductive health rights and increases the risk of sexual and gender-based violence. Furthermore, early marriage interrupts girls’ education and compromises their political and economic participation.

The said bill could also help in curbing the rising trend of early pregnancies among teenage Filipinas and could strengthen the call to raise the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 years old.

While we recognise that the prohibition of child marriage might cause resistance from other sectors of society as it is a part of their customary practices, we are always for the prioritisation of the overall wellbeing and the best interest of children.

In solidarity with the women and children’s rights movement in the country, we have consistently advocated for ways on how we could mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on girls’ protection, access to education, and their vulnerabilities. The Commission also expresses its commitment to working with various government agencies in addressing the problem of child marriage.

The CHR is hopeful that this proposed bill will soon be enacted in both chambers the soonest time possible. ###