House OKs bill banning child marriage

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) – The House of Representatives approved on final reading House Bill 9943, which bans the practice of child marriage.

During the House session on Monday, 196 congressmen voted for the approval of the measure while two lawmakers abstained.

The bill defined child marriage as a “formal marriage between children under 18 years of age, and between an adult and a child.”

Also under the scope of child marriage in the bill are forced marriages where one or both parties do not have express “full, free, and informed” consent, and cohabitation outside of wedlock.

The measure also considers a child marriage as void ab initio, which means their union is void from the start as if it never happened.

A person who arranges a child marriage will be jailed and required to pay a fine of not less than ₱40,000. If the person who arranged the marriage is a parent or guardian of the child, the penalties are imprisonment, a fine of not less than ₱50,000, and perpetual loss of parental authority.

Those who officiate a child marriage will face jail time and a fine of not less than ₱50,000. A penalty of perpetual disqualification from office will be added to offenders who are also public officers.

An adult partner cohabiting with a child will face prison time and a fine of not less than ₱50,000, plus perpetual disqualification from office if the offender is a public officer.

The latest United Nations Children’s Fund data show the country has the 12th highest number of child brides in the world at 726,000.

The UN study added that around 15% of Filipino women get married before the age of 18, while 2% are wed before turning 15 years old.