Children having children in Palawan: Bill filed to seek end to child marriages

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 05 2020 03:05 PM | Updated as of Mar 05 2020 07:00 PM

Courtesy of Jen Villafuerte-Tombaga/Sen. Risa Hontiveros

MANILA (UPDATE) - Children as young as 9 are having kids of their own, according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who sponsored a bill that sought to end child marriages in the country.

In her privilege speech on Wednesday, the lawmaker raised concerns on 3 child brides pictured in a far-flung village in Palawan that is making rounds on social media.

"If you think the baby boys in the care of the 2 girls are their siblings, I am sad to say that you are mistaken. They are their children. CHILDREN. HAVING. CHILDREN," she said.

The child brides, aged 13, 12 and 9, come from the Palaw’on community.

"Nakakalungkot. Just by looking at them, one immediately realizes that #childmarriage has to stop," Hontiveros added.

Senate Bill 1373 or the "Girls Not Brides Act" seeks to prohibit and declare child marriage as illegal and any person who facilitates and solemnizes the union must be penalized.

Hontiveros said the Philippines ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that sets the minimum age of marriage at 18.

The country is also a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women or CEDAW, which obligates states to ensure full, free and informed consent of both parties to the marriage, she added.

Citing medical evidence, the senator said infant mortality among child brides is higher compared to mothers older than 19.

Child brides are also vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, domestic violence, abuse and exploitation, she added.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed support to the measure to eradicate child marriage in the country.

"Early marriage halts their ability to realize a wide range of human rights as it denies them of their childhood, disrupts their education, increases the risk of violence, jeopardizes their health and safety, and limits full participation in public life," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.

Citing a 2017 data from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 15 percent of Filipino girls are married before their 18th birthday and 2 percent are married before the age of 15, she added.

For the CHR, ending child marriage, which could be traced to poverty, religious laws or cultural norms, requires a long-term, sustainable action across many different sectors.

"Every individual, girl and boy, should not be robbed of their freedom to make meaningful decisions about their marriage, sexual health, safety and well-being, especially at an age when they are not yet physically, emotionally, psychologically and financially ready," De Guia said.