Children can no longer be married in the Philippines as a law banning the practice came into effect Thursday. This is in a nation where one in six girls are married under the age of 18.
Globally, it is estimated that 12 million girls marry before they turn 18 years old every year. That is almost one girl every 23 minutes, according to UNICEF.
According to rights group Plan International, the Philippines has the 12th-highest number of child marriages in the world, with long-held cultural practices and inequality hindering change.
Nevertheless, the newly-enacted marriage law enacted by Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday stipulates that those who marry or cohabit with anyone under 18 will face 12-year prison terms.
It is also a criminal offence to arrange or solemnize a union with an underage person.
Specifically, according to the law, “the state… views child marriage as a practice constituting child abuse since it degrades, diminishes, and undervalues the intrinsic worth and dignity of children.”
International conventions on the rights of women and children are consistent with the law, a government spokesperson told CTN News.
However, it has been decided to suspend some provisions of the legislation for one year. This is to provide a transition period for Muslims and indigenous communities in which child marriage is still prevalent, the spokesperson said.
Over half a billion girls and women were married as children according to a UNICEF report last year. The highest rates were found in Africa and South Asia.
However, recent data indicate that the practice is generally declining on average across the globe, on average with every passing year.