Child marriage is now officially illegal in the Philippines as a law banning the practice took effect in a country in January where one in six girls enters wedlock before the age of 18. According to Britain-based rights group Plan International, the impoverished Southeast Asian country has the 12th-highest number of child marriages worldwide, with gender inequality and long-held cultural practices hindering change. But a new law, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, laid out imprisonment terms of up to 12 years for cohabiting or marrying anyone under 18.
The government said the law is consistent with international conventions on the rights of children and women. However, some portions of the legislation have been suspended for a year to allow for a smooth transition period for Muslims and indigenous communities in which child marriage is relatively common.
Plan International’s Country Director for the Philippines, Ana Maria Locsin, hailed the ban. “Child marriage is a harmful practice that can cause lasting impact throughout the lives of both girls and boys. It deprives them of the right to be free from violence, the right to education, and sexual and reproductive health and rights,” said Locsin.