The House Committee on Women and Gender Equality has strongly endorsed for approval the bill making child marriages unlawful and penalizing persons, including parents, found guilty of facilitating or solemnizing illegal unions.
Authors of House Bill 9943 or the Anti-Child Marriage Law admitted that the practice of marriage of persons below 18 years old is permitted under the Code of Muslim of Personal Laws.
Malabon Rep. Jaye Lacson-Noel said that the said law allows Muslims to consummate marriage provided that the parties are at least 15 years old.
“In some instances, the Shari’a Courts may declare or allow marriages below the age of 15 but not less than 12 years of age,” said Lacson-Noel .
She explained that under the Family Code of the Philippines, the minimum age requirement in having the legal capacity to marry is at least 18 years old for both male and female.
Lacson-Noel filed HB 5670, one of the four legislative proposals that were consolidated into HB 9943. Other authors of similar measures are Reps. Alfred Vargas (5th District, Quezon City); Bernadette Herrera-Dy (BH Partylist); Edcel Lagman (1st District, Albay); and Myra Joy Tambunting (2nd District, Parañaque City).
Common among the bills filed by them are provisions penalizing persons who facilitate and solemnize child marriages.
Aside from declaring a child marriage as “void ab initio”, the bills also declare weddings involving persons below 18 years old will be considered a public crime, thus cases in court may be filed by any concerned individual, not just the affected parties.
The legislative proposals also provide for protective custody for the “child-party” to an illegal marriage.
Lagman decried “early and forced marriages” as an act of violence against women and children, noting that this is still being practiced in the Philippines.
In the bill filed by Lagman and Herrera, penal provisions include the imposition of graduated fines of P25,000 to P50,000 for first and second offenses committed by the solemnizing officer.
Committing the same offense for the third time will be penalized with fine and imprisonment provided under Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
Parents or guardians found guilty of violating the law will be denied parental authority from six months to one year. A permanent protection order for the second offense will be issued while imprisonment, based on RA 7610, will be meted out to the offender.
Any person who facilitates child marriages will also be punished as provided under Section 10 of RA 7610.
Tambunting stressed that child marriage is a violation of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“It robs children of their children and is threatening to their lives and health, especially for girls who bear children during their adolescent years,” she said.
Vargas admitted that the issue on child marriage may be complicated but can be addressed through the passage of the bill.
“Clear legislation, pro-children policies and multi-sectoral programs could address the problem and render the practice of child marriage obsolete,” the QC solon stated.