President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines recently signed a new law criminalising child marriages in the Philippines.
In a country where one in six girls marries before the age of 18, the passing of this law is a win for girls' rights.
In passing the law, Duterte acknowledged the need for the abolishment of traditional and cultural structures and practices that perpetuate the abuse, exploitation and discrimination of children.
"The state... views child marriage as a practice constituting child abuse because it debases, degrades and demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of children," the law states.
'The abolition of unequal structures'
The new law, known as An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and Imposing Penalties or Republic Act No. 11596 (RA 11596) was signed on 10 December 2021 and a copy of the law was sent to reporters on January 6, 2022.
"The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building and shall therefore protect and promote their empowerment. This entails the abolition of the unequal structures and practices that perpetuate discrimination and inequality," the law reads.
Under this new law, anyone who marries or cohabitates with an individual under the age of 18 outside of wedlock or organises such a union faces a 12-year prison sentence and will be declared as having engaged in "unlawful and prohibited acts" deemed a public crime.
Should anyone cause, fix, facilitate or arrange child marriage, they will incur a fine of no less than 40 000 Philippine pesos, which equates to over 12 000 South African rands. In the case that the perpetrator is a parent or guardian of the child, they would incur a fine of no less than 50 000 pesos, or over R15 000, in addition to the loss of parental authority.
Though South Africa has outlawed customary marriages of children under the age of 18, there are unfortunately plenty of other African countries that still allow child marriages to continue, with some customs and religious courts still upholding the right to allow marriages below the age of 12 in West African, Central African and Northeast African countries.
Do you believe enough is being done to address the widespread issue of child marriages in African countries? Share your thoughts with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous contributions welcome.
Source: Phillipines News Agency
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