Child marriage is now a crime

Child marriage is now a public crime under Republic Act 11596 which President Duterte signed recently.

A copy of the new law, titled An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and Imposing Penalties, was released to media reporters Thursday.

Child marriage refers to any marriage entered into where one or both parties are children and solemnized in civil, church, or in any recognized traditional, cultural, or customary manner. It  includes an informal union or cohabitation outside of wedlock between an adult and a child, or between children.

Under the law, any person who causes, fixes, facilitates or arranges a child marriage shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its medium period and a fine of not less than P40,000. If the fixer is an ascendant, parent, adoptive parent, step parent, or guardian of the child, the penalty shall be prision mayor in its maximum period, a fine of not less than P50,000, and perpetual loss of parental authority.

Persons who perform a child marriage shall also be subject to a  penalty of prision mayor or imprisonment of six years and one day to eight years, and a fine of not less than P50,000, and  perpetual disqualification from office if he or she is a public officer. Its medium term is eight years and one day to 10 years.

An adult partner who cohabits with a child outside wedlock shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period and a fine of not less than P50,000, aside from other penalties.

RA 11596 directs the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to take the lead in its implementation and develop programs and appropriate services that will address the prevalence of child marriage. These may include legal,  health and psychosocial services; counseling, educational, livelihood and skills development; temporary shelter, and all other assistance necessary to protect victims of child marriage and their offspring. It will also include awareness campaigns on the negative effects of child marriage.

The law likewise requires the Department of Education and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to institute appropriate programs on the issue.

House Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera said RA 11596 is a huge step to help ensure that children’s rights will be upheld and their well-being and future secured.

“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,” Herrera said, adding that the time has come for the Philippines to end the “longstanding disturbing practice” of child marriage.