Legislators take steps to end child marriage in the Philippines

Around 17% of Filipino girls and 3% of Filipino boys are married before they reach the age of 18.[1] While it also happens to young boys, it is mostly girls who are subjected to child marriage.

There are varied factors that enable child marriage, but it is mostly linked to poverty.

In many impoverished contexts, girls are not seen as potential income earners so parents favor arranging them to get married. After marriage, the child bride will be under the care of her husband and will ease the economic burden from her parents. Girls are also sometimes offered to marriage in exchange for money or to offset debts. In these cases, many girls do not have the power to decide for their futures, as it is already determined for them by their parents or caregivers.

Marrying at an early age has several adverse effects to the development of children. It discourages them from continuing their education[2], makes them prone to violence, and they become physically and mentally unprepared for giving birth and parenthood. Every child deserves to live free and reach their full potential, and being married in a young age hinders them from achieving this.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has also enabled the increase of child marriage. The World Vision Global Sponsorship Team has noticed a significant rise in cases of child marriage among our registered children globally in the last 6 months, coinciding with spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and various levels of school closures and economic shutdowns.

These spikes are not one-off cases, but rather forming an increasing pattern among children who are registered with World Vision, including covered communities in the Philippines. The projected numbers for teenage pregnancy amid the pandemic are also alarming. The Commission on Population and Development cites that there is a projected increase of 9.3 percent (compared to earlier projections) in teenage pregnancy cases due to the lockdowns.[3]

Legislators have recently united to end child marriage in the country. Earlier this month, the Senate of the Philippines has voted unanimously in favor of the bill prohibiting child, early, and forced marriage in the Philippines, also known as the “Girls not Brides Act” (Senate Bill 1373). The bill also provides for culturally appropriate programs and services that will respond to the needs of those who will be affected when it becomes a law.

World Vision, as a member of the Child Rights Network[4], also calls on legislators from the House of Representatives to prioritize the deliberation of the pending equivalent bills that will prevent children from experiencing the adverse effects of child, early, forced, and arranged marriage. May this be a gift they can give to Filipino children, before the end of the year 2020.

[1] Philippine Statistics Authority and ICF. (2018). Philippines National Demographic and Health Survey 2017. Retrieved from https://www.dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR347/FR347.pdf

[2] See our story on how child marriage and pregnancy prevents girls from finishing school at https://www.worldvision.org.ph/news/back-to-school-teenage-pregnancy-prevents-blaan-learners-from-finishing-school/

[3] Commission on Population and Development (25 June 2020). Pandemic may increase live births in PHL to almost 2M with FP efforts hampered, thousands of teens also projected to give birth. Retrieved from https://popcom.gov.ph/?p=1014

[4] World Vision Philippines is a member of the Child Rights Network, the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines.