The Civil Society Coalition on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC Coalition) expresses its support to the #EndChildMarriage campaign of Child Rights Network to pass a national law to prohibit the facilitation and solemnization of child marriage in the Philippines.
Child marriages persist in indigenous and Muslim communities even if the Family Code of the Philippines has set the legal age of marriage at 18 years old. It is a form of violence against children wherein girls’ health and development are disrupted when they get pregnant and forced to drop out of school. Despite its negative implications for children, it is being practiced in some parts of the country primarily due to cultural beliefs and customary laws. Some families also view arranged marriage for their children as a way out of poverty.
Our latest NGO Alternative Report cites a study that reveals that the average age of females in child marriages is 13 years old.  Child marriage is also practiced as a way of repaying debt or of ensuring a high dowry. It has harmful effects on young girls and poses serious health risks, including sexually transmitted diseases and complications from early pregnancy. Girls who are married off also tend to discontinue their studies and experience gender-based violence such as marital rape, and mental and physical abuse that can lead to death.
Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), State Parties, including the Philippines, have the obligation to ensure the protection of children particularly in the areas of health and safety, and have children’s best interest as the primary consideration in all actions concerning them (Article 3). State parties are also mandated to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse (Article 19).
As a coalition of civil society organizations advocating for children’s rights, we believe that the practice of child marriage is a violation of girl children’s right to be protected from gender-based violence, compromises their right to health and education, and undermines their best interest.
Thus, we call on the government to pass a law to prohibit child marriage and take necessary actions to address the situations that lead to its continued practice. We also call on local government units and concerned national agencies to work with tribal leaders and Muslim religious leaders in educating communities on the negative impacts of child marriage and adopting measures to prevent this.
We call on the duty bearers and other stakeholders to raise awareness on the negative effects of child marriages not only on young girls but on children in general, especially in the time of pandemic where they are the most vulnerable to all forms of abuse and violence.
The CRC Coalition stands with children, fellow child rights organizations, legislators, private individuals, human rights groups, and stakeholders’ call to #EndChildMarriage now.
Save the Children. “The Impact of Early Marriage Practices: A Comparative Study of Two Indigenous Communities in South-Central Mindanao (T’boli and B’laan) from a Human Rights Perspective.” Unpublished Report. Cited in Civil Society Coalition on the Convention on the Rights of The Child. Still in the Sidelines: Children’s Rights in the Philippines. The monitoring report of the CRC Coalition on the Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 2009-2019, February 2020.