“The State considers child marriage to be a practice that abuses minors because it degrades, degrades and demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child”, indicates unambiguously the new law enacted Thursday, December 6 in the Philippines on the total ban on child marriage. “This is great news for the Philippines and children’s rights”, welcomed Julien Beauhaire, spokesperson for the non-governmental organization Plan international, present in 75 countries, which has campaigned for years for the adoption of this law.
“A long-term job”
According to Plan International’s ranking, the Philippines is ranked tenth in the world in terms of the number of child marriages concluded on its soil. Thus, nearly a million young girls (2% of girls under 15 and 18% of girls between 15 and 18) are married each year. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), “Every child has the right to be protected against all forms of exploitation and sexual violence”. The Philippines signed this convention as early as 1990, and later ratified it, but it was years before a law was enacted (1).
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“It’s a very long-term job, explains Julien Beauhaire, because we must first intervene in the field with young girls and families, but also with local and national political authorities. “ He adds that, over the past decade, child marriage has decreased by 15% globally, “Especially in Asia which is a good student”. If the figures do not change in Latin America, they increase in sub-Saharan Africa (Niger, Central African Republic, Chad or Mali). But the Covid-19 pandemic is complicating the situation in many other countries.
Heavy prison sentences
In the Philippines now, anyone who marries or cohabits with a person under the age of 18, or arranges or celebrates such unions, is liable to twelve years in prison. According to the Philippine government, the law is now in line with international conventions on the rights of women and children. “Our Filipino teams fought and it’s very encouraging, assures Julien Beauhaire, because henceforth the girls will be able to avail themselves of this right, will thus be able to continue to be educated until their majority and to decide or not to marry and to have children. “
However, certain provisions of the law will remain in abeyance for a year for Muslim and indigenous communities, among which engagements and child marriages are relatively frequent. The purpose of the transition period is to give the government time to convince the followers of this practice to give it up.