Child marriage is now a criminal offense in the Philippines after President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a measure prohibiting its practice and imposing penalties for violators, Malacanang said Thursday.
The practice of child marriage is a form of child abuse since it debases the rights and dignity of children based on Republic Act No. 11596, signed into law by President Duterte on Dec. 10.
"The state affirms that marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of capacitated parties, and child betrothal and marriage shall have no legal effect," the law stated.
Under the new law, child marriage is defined as a marriage entered into wherein one or both parties are below the age of 18 or over but are unable to take care or protect themselves from abuse or exploitation due to a physical or mental condition.
Child marriages are considered as "public crimes" and perpetrators could face penalties of at least P40,000 and jail time of at least six years and a day.
Should the perpetrator be a parent, adoptive parent, or guardian, penalties are a 12-year jail time, a fine of at least P50,000, and loss of parental authority over the child.
For individuals who officiate child marriage rites, they would face a penalty of at least six years of jail time and a fine of not less than P40,000. If they are public officials, they will also be disqualified from office.
The legal age for marriage in the Philippines is 18 based on the Family Code but in some cultures and religions, child marriage is practiced.