Bill criminalizing child marriage hurdles House on final reading

Published September 6, 2021, 5:57 PM

by Noreen Jazul

A measure criminalizing child marriage was approved by the House of Representatives on the third and final reading on Monday, September 6.

UNSPLASH

With 196 affirmative votes, zero negative, and two abstentions, the Lower House approved House Bill No. 9943, or the proposed “Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage”.

The measure prohibits the facilitation and solemnization of child marriage as well as the cohabitation of an adult partner with a child outside wedlock.

It also declares child marriages “void ab initio” or void from the start.

Under the bill, child marriage is defined as the “formal marriage between children under 18 years of age, and between an adult and a child which is considered to be a form of forced marriage, given that one or both parties have not expressed full, free and informed consent.”

Those found arranging, fixing, or facilitating child marriage will face a penalty of prision mayor in its medium period or a fine of not less than P40,000 pesos.

If the person who committed the arranging, fixing, or facilitating of child marriage is an ascendant, parent, or adoptive parent, step-parent, or guardian of the child, the penalty will be prision mayor in its maximum period” and a fine of not less than P50,000 and “perpetual loss of parental authority.”

Individuals who will officiate a child marriage will also be penalized with prision mayor in its maximum period, a fine of not less than P50,000.

If the individual who officiated the child marriage is a public officer he or she will face perpetual disqualification from office.

The bill also states that an adult partner who “cohabits with a child outside wedlock” will be penalized with prision mayor in its maxim period, a fine not less than P50,000, and perpetual disqualification from appointive or elective office.

Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas, who co-authored the bill, welcomed the measure’s passing.

“This is a historic step towards the criminalization of child marriage, which has trapped several Filipino girls into unwanted and early child-bearing and child-rearing responsibilities and even into cycles of abuse. Pagpapalakas ito ng proteksyon sa kabataang kababaihan mula sa abuso,” Brosas said.

“The legislation’s approval also comes a time when teenage pregnancy in the country is on an alarming rise amid the pandemic, with a child as young as 10 giving birth. We really need to step in and stop the trend while we seek to strengthen protective and support services for children,” she added.

A counterpart bill in the Senate was approved in November, 2020.

 
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