Herrera, one of the bill’s authors, said in an initial statement, “I was able to confirm in Malacañang that the End Child Marriage Bill, which we fought for and championed in Congress for many years, has lapsed into law last Dec. 11.” If the law has lapsed, it means that President Rodrigo Duterte failed to act on the measure 30 days after submission to his office.
However, Herrera’s latest post on Facebook includes a copy of the bill signed by the president and an approval stamp dated Dec. 10. Initial confusion aside, the bill signed by Duterte is now known as Republic Act No. 11596 or “An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and Imposing Penalties for Violations Thereof.”
Herrera added, “This is a major victory in our campaign to end child marriage in the Philippines. This law will help protect children, especially young girls, and hopefully change the trajectory of their lives.”
The law defines child marriage as any marriage entered into where one or both parties are human beings under 18 years of age, or 18 years of age, or over but unable to fully take care and protect oneself from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, or discrimination beceause of a physical or mental disability or condition. It covers civil and church ceremonies, informal unions, and cohabitation outside of wedlock.
“In the pursuit of this policy, the State shall abolish all traditional and cultural practices and structures that perpetuate discrimination, abuse, and exploitation of children such as the practice of child marriage,” the law states. “The State affirms that marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of capacitated parties, and child betrothal and marriage shall have no legal effect.”
The law criminalizes the following acts and demands these penalties:
(a) Facilitation of Child Marriage – Any person who causes, fixes, facilitates, or arranges a child marriage shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its medium period (8 years and 1 day to 10 years) and a fine of not less than P40,000. Provided, however, that should the perpetrator be an ascendant, parent, adoptive parent, step parent, or guardian of the child, the penalty shall be prision mayor in its maximum period (10 years and 1 day to 12 years), a fine of not less than P50,000 and perpetual loss of parental authority.
(b) Solemnization of Child Marriage – Any person who performs or officiates a child marriage shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period and a fine of not less than P50,000.
(c) Cohabitation of an Adult with a Child Outside Wedlock – Any adult partner who cohabits with a child outside wedlock shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period and a fine of not less than P50,000.
Apart from these, child marriage is void ab initio (or legally void from the beginning) and the action or defense for declaration of absolute nullity of the marriage shall not prescribe in accordance to Articles 35 and 39 of the Family Code.
Within 60 days from the effectivity of the act, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will lead the promulgation of rules and regulations to implement the law. DSWD will work in coordination with the Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Council for the Welfare of Children, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and one representative each of civil society organizations representing women, children, Muslim Filipinos, and Indigenuous cultural communities.
Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas captured the significance of the End Child Marriage law in her statement: “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.”
It’s been a long and hard fight, and we are well aware that there is more work to be done to fully end the culture of abuse. But today, we celebrate this win.