Child marriage has a range of negative impact on the health and life trajectories of young people, particularly girls. Child marriage deprives girls of their childhood and puts their well-being at greater risk. Girls who marry before 18 years old are more likely to experience domestic violence and abuse and less likely to finish their schooling and pursue their professional dreams. They also tend to have lower economic and health status than their unmarried peers, which are often passed down to their own children. Child marriage does not only constraint young girls in achieving their full potentials and dreams, but it also posts critical health and socio-economic problems to the country.

The 2022 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) found that 14% of young women aged 20-25 in the Philippines were married by the age of 18, while only 2% women age 25–49 report that they were first married by age 15. While the Anti-Child Marriage Law (RA 11596) took effect last December 2022, most child marriages still occur in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), where cultural and religious beliefs allow for marriage at a very young age.

World Vision together with Coventry University (UK) and Queen Margaret University (Scotland) has conducted a study aimed to investigate faith norms (and religion) and their relationship with the practice of child marriage in selected areas of Marawi and Cotabato.

Using a mixed-methods approach, the study surveyed 509 participants and engaged in focus group discussions and interviews with 80 participants and 30 influential individuals. Results revealed that the typical age of marriage is below 18, with girls marrying earlier than boys. Motivations for early marriage differed between Cotabato and Marawi, with personal choice being a key factor in Cotabato and external factors in Marawi.

Despite high religiosity, faith norms did not support child marriage. Religious and cultural leaders were recognized as vital sources of information on child marriage for community members who also lacked resources to prevent early marriage.

Overall, child marriage is a complex issue influenced by various factors. While faith norms play a role, they are not the sole drivers behind it. Poverty, limited education, gender inequality, traditional customs, and legal frameworks all contribute to child marriage.

The passage of a new Anti-Child Marriage law in the Philippines that prohibits child marriage is an important step in protecting children. With the law’s implementing rules and regulations now in full effect, advocates and stakeholders have more power to fight against the practice. However, changing attitudes about child marriage does not always lead to changes in actual behavior among parents and communities. This is especially true if religious teachings and cultural context are not considered in efforts to prevent child marriage.