Divorce law may be beneficial to couples' children: group

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 08 2016 10:46 PM

Contrary to popular belief, divorce may be helpful for children of couples in troubled marriages, a feminist group said.

"We have to be authentic, we have to be honest with the children [about] what the relationship really is now. Minsan, nagkukunwari sila na okay pa, pero the children witness yung conflict between the couple and it’s not healthy for the children as well," Jean Enriquez, the national coordinator of the World March of Women said on ANC's Headstart.

She cited, there are longitudinal researches that prove that it’s better for children if the parents separate or get divorced instead of pretending to be together.

However, she also noted that a couple has to go through a thorough process when availing of divorce.

"I believe like any law, it has to go through a process, so they have to prove that the differences are irreconcilable as the law provides. Ibig sabihin, kailangan din nilang patunayan na hindi na ‘to maaayos," she said.

The divorce law they wish to be implemented in the country, she said, is one where everyone benefits.

"A divorce law that first considers also the welfare of the children, the welfare of both spouses that’s not really biased towards one sex. Basically, this is for the good of everyone—hindi lang para sa babae, hindi lang rin para sa lalaki; kundi sa lahat," she said.

A divorce law can also help reduce the chances of women being kept in abusive marriages, Enriquez said.

"A divorce law will hugely help especially women who are in an abusive relationship," she said.

Among the grounds for divorce in the House Bill 2380 filed by women's party-list Gabriela on Wednesday was "irreconcilable differences that have caused the irreparable breakdown of marriage," and she said it should cover abuses in the relationship.

Enriquez, citing studies, said 1 out 5 Filipino women are being abused in relationships, and keeping them in the relationship where there is abuse like infidelity will only worsen the situation.

Enriquez also stressed that existing laws on adultery and concubinage are unfair to women, and included in their proposal is to remove these and replace them with divorce altogether.

She also dispelled belief that marriages won’t last because there is divorce available.

"I don’t think that we should be worried that the sanctity of marriage will be threatened because it is going to be protected by those who are truly in love and who have really decided to work on the marriage, but we cannot force it on people who are in abusive relationships because it’s also life-threatening," she said.

THE CHURCH AND COLD LEGISLATORS?

Meanwhile, she also believes the fifth filing of the bill in the Philippine congress may no longer be as contentious as previous attempts, as the changing times may now allow for a freer debate on whether or not it is time to pass the law.

"We are hopeful because this has been filed five years ago, and right now, there seems to be a better atmosphere, political atmosphere for it," she said.

Even Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, she cited, "was hastening the process of annulment in the Church."

"That tells us that there’s a change of thinking towards relationships—that it can change. It’s possible that some marriages might be ending," she said.

However, the largely conservative Catholic Church in the Philippines, which strongly lobbied against the Reproductive Health Law may once again campaign against it.

"But I would like to invoke the argument that a lot of women are suffering in abusive relationships, and it’s our public interest to protect those who are abused. Therefore, I hope that the Catholic Church would consider that," said Enriquez.

READ: Divorce law backer sees smoother journey compared to RH wars

She is also hopeful the legislators will promote what their constituents' desire, when as she cited, 60% of the population want the divorce law passed according to the latest Social Weather survey released in 2015.

"I think it’s important for them to consider that a lot of people are now pushing for the bill, for the divorce bill because that’s really is life-saving for many women who are abused, of which the Catholic Church is also very concerned about," she said.

Enriquez also nixed counter-proposals to the divorce bill, wherein annulment will be made cheaper and more accessible.

"I’m just wondering why that proposal when divorce could make everything easier. As we’ve said, there’s a huge difference between annulment and divorce," she said.

Enriquez noted that divorce differs from annulment which is currently present in the country, wherein the former nullifies the marriage based on grounds existing since the start of the marriage, while the latter "recognizes that relationships change."

"It doesn’t nullify the reality of marriage, and it also tells the children that there really was marriage that happened, except that it changed. Sometimes, the problems are irreparable, and therefore irreconcilable din 'yung differences, and it would be better for children for the relationship to be transformed," she said.

Ideally, the divorce will also be less expensive and speedier than annulment, according to Enriquez.

"Right now, for many couples, it would take them P100,000 to be able to process an annulment and it takes years as well. Some of my friends had to go through the painful process for ten years," she said.