CHR seeks enactment of law declaring child marriage as illegal

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is hopeful that Senate Bill No. 1373, also known as the "Girls Not Brides Act," will soon be enacted and that child marriages will finally become illegal in the country.

Commission on Human Rights (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that they are in full support of the Senate bill, which passed second reading on Monday,  coincidentally the same day that the International Day of the Girl Child was observed.

Even as the country struggles with the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) health crisis, de Guia said that such legislative move is still a "welcome development" especially now that there are more children suffering from poverty.

"Girls in the poorest households are more vulnerable and at risk of early or forced marriage," lamented de Guia. "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 has stressed that marriage before 18 years old is a fundamental violation of the rights of a child, and it negatively impacts every aspect of a child’s dignity and life.

Because of child marriages, the sexual and reproductive health rights of girls are undermined, and they are often at risk of sexual and gender-based violence. What's more, their education as well as economic participation are affected and compromised.

The CHR knows that some sectors might resist the prohibition of child marriages. However, its priority will always be on 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," said de Guia.