Child Marriage in The Philippines: Why It Needs to End Now!
Somehow, child marriage became acceptable in the Philippines when it never should have been to begin with.
We all know how easy it is to persuade a child. Sometimes, all it takes is some food like candy or a toy to sway their decision. It’s why even the law sees them as “minors” and why they can’t just consent to anything. With the law taking into consideration their developing minds, children cannot make completely informed decisions about things like marriage without the awareness of their parents. Hence, there is a requirement of assent and consent from both sides. It can’t be one or the other. However, there are some parents who agree to child marriages in the Philippines.
The question is — why?
History of Child Marriage in the Philippines: Where did it start?
Historically, child marriages are common not just in the Philippines but even in other Southeast Asian countries, Africa, and the Middle East. Although modern societies frown upon it, the practice’s persistence appears to be deeply rooted in survival (Schaffnit & Lawson, 2021). Some cultures see it as an adaptive practice, especially when they don’t expect to live very long. However, most child marriages occur as a form of “escape.” Usually, low-income parents or those from poor areas “sell” their children into child marriages to settle their debts either as a form of collateral or to support their other existing children (UNICEF, 2005; Kidman, 2017; Efevbera & Bhabha, 2020).
Most cases usually report a young daughter as a victim of child marriage, rarely a son. The daughters who are sold into child marriage often suffer abusive relationships and out of fear, are conditioned to respect their much older husband, so they surrender their decision-making and control to them (Kidman, 2017).
It’s deeply rooted in religious practice
Some parents in the Philippines who have sold their children into marriages will argue that their religion allows it. Although the religious scriptures neither deny nor confirm its [child marriage] morality, it was considered acceptable in that context because there was no medicine to prolong lives. Now that Science and Medicine have caught up, it renders the argument of early marriage invalid. Both women and men can biologically and sexually fully mature to decrease the many health risks that come with child marriage (Efevbera & Bhabha, 2020).
Although the religious perspective is a common rationale, there is also an economic reasoning behind it for those who turn a blind eye to its evils. Marriage, legally, allows spouses to share resources. In essence, the child who is married off allows their impoverished parents to amass more resources for the family’s survival.
But has the child thought about escaping? Perhaps. But in the Philippines, it’s pressure from both sides of the family. Most especially from the bride who is born into a poor family, the parents will say that she has a debt to them.
Effects of child marriage
Unfortunately, current studies only cover a child bride’s side. However, the horrors are enough. A lot of these child brides often suffer permanent physiological damage after pregnancy, giving birth prematurely, and also prone to hemorrhaging. They also are more prone to receiving sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), especially when the relationship is built purely on economic reasons, not compassionate ones (Kidman, 2017; Efevbera & Bhabha, 2020).
The age of these children also makes them more prone to becoming victims of domestic violence. Their partners, usually older men, will not acknowledge them as women or adults. Therefore, they will resort to more traditional and disciplinary means because they perceive them as a child (Kidman, 2017).
The fight continues against child marriage in the Philippines
However, time appears to be moving forward since there is a law against Child Marriage in the Philippines: R.A. 11596. The law, also known as the Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and Imposing Penalties for Violations Thereof, imposes heavy penalties on those who participate, facilitate, and even officiate such marriage. This includes the parents who, as the legal guardians, are morally obligated by the law to deny such requests and will lose their parental authority if they involve themselves. In other countries, when one even has sex with a minor, it’s a crime known as Statutory Rape wherein it acknowledges that the minor is not old enough to consent to the behavior.
Children, whether in the Philippines or not, are not supposed to marry. Not until they’ve experienced all the joys that Life has to offer and are at a legal age.
Efevbera, Y., & Bhabha, J. (2020). Defining and deconstructing girl child marriage and applications to global public health. BMC Public Health, 20(1), 1547.
Kidman, R. (2017). Child marriage and intimate partner violence: a comparative study of 34 countries. International journal of epidemiology, 46(2), 662-675.
Raj, A. (2010). When the mother is a child: the impact of child marriage on the health and human rights of girls. Archives of disease in childhood, 95(11), 931-935.
Schaffnit, S. B., & Lawson, D. W. (2021). Married Too Young? The Behavioral Ecology of ‘Child Marriage’. Social Sciences, 10(5), 161.
UNICEF. (2005). Early marriage a harmful traditional practice a statistical exploration 2005. Unicef.