“Girls not Brides” : The Philippines Outlaws Child Marriages

Written by: Leela

Edited by: Amelie

Visual by: Yana

As of November 9, 2020 The Philippine Senate has unanimously voted to pass the “Girls Not Brides Act,” representing a massive stride for women’s and children’s rights. The act has drawn bipartisan support since it was first introduced to the Senate in June, and in effect would criminalize all future child marriages in the Philippines. 

The bill was introduced by Senator Risa Hontiveros, who heads the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Gender Equality and Family Relations. Under the act, anyone responsible for facilitating the arrangement and offiation of a child marriage is liable to jail time between 10 years and a day to 12 years, and fines between 40,000-50,000 pesos. In addition, in the case that the child’s guardian is held responsible for officiating or arranging the marriage, said person will also be stripped of their parental rights to the victim – something which further disincentives parents and guardians to marry their underage children.

The enactment of “Girls not Brides Act” comes at a time when The Philippines has had a political push for children’s and women’s rights. Just last month, the age of consent was raised by the Senate from 12 (the lowest age of consent in the world) to 16. In what has been a resounding win for children’s rights activists in the country. Currently the Philippines is ranked 12th globally in countries with the highest number of child marriages, and activists have long since argued that the low age of consent and marriage has led to the endangerment, particularly, of girls. When girls are engaged in sexual activity at a younger age, they are more likely to get pregnant before their bodies have physically finished developing, which significantly increases the risk of a mother’s death during childbirth and increased risk of cervical cancer. In addition to these justifiable concerns, a country with an age of consent in the tween years supports the ability of child predators to prey on children. 

A major tenant of the ‘Girls not Brides’ Act is that, as of its implementation in November, any new marriage where at least 1 of the participating members is below the age of 18 will be considered null and void in the eyes of the courts. This is extremely significant because the Philippines is the only country in the world – excluding the Vatican – where divorce is not a legal process (although the courts can and do perform annulments). These are often inaccessible to the majority of Filipinos as an annulment can cost upwards of 200,000 pesos, and the court processes to obtain one can last years. Therefore annulments are a luxury, that the common man does not have the access to financially. 

Overall, the enactment of this bill into law will make the Philippines a better and safer place for children, women, and future generations of Filipinos. The “Girls Not Brides” Act will shape the future of the Philippines for decades to come. 

Works Cited:

“GNI per Capita, Atlas Method (Current US$) – Philippines.” Data, World Bank, 2020, data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD?locations=PH.

Gotinga, JC. “Senate Panel Approves Bills Raising Age of Sexual Consent from 12 to 16.” Rappler, Rappler, 1 Oct. 2020, http://www.rappler.com/nation/senate-panel-approves-bills-raising-age-sexual-consent-16-years-old.

Gotinga, JC. “Senate Passes Bill Criminalizing Child Marriage.” Rappler, Rappler, 9 Nov. 2020, http://www.rappler.com/nation/senate-passes-bill-criminalizing-child-marriage-philippines.“How Much Does Annulment Cost?” ABS, ABS-CBN News, 14 Sept. 2015, news.abs-cbn.com/focus/09/13/15/how-much-does-annulment-cost.