International humanitarian and development organization Oxfam on Tuesday lauded the House of Representatives for approving on 2nd reading House Bill 9943, which seeks to end child marriage in the country.
“We are one step closer to the finish line. The passage of this landmark legislation means a safer future for many Filipino children. We need to fix the loopholes and ensure that the rights of our children are protected,” said Oxfam Pilipinas Country Director Lot Felizco.
A bill addressing the legal loopholes that allow child marriage in the Philippines was already passed by the Senate last year. For the first time, its counterpart bill at the House of Representatives was approved on 2nd reading.
“Oxfam’s studies found strong evidence that prevailing negative attitudes and expectations are harming women and girls. Child marriage is deeply rooted in poverty and gender inequality. It traps women and girls in an unending cycle of poverty and deprives them of their health, education, well-being, and safety rights,” Felizco added.
Jeanette Dulawan, Gender Justice Program Manager of Oxfam Pilipinas, also pointed out that “Child marriage is a grave violation of human rights and a serious public health issue.”
Dulawan said Oxfam and its partner organizations would like to see the bill approved and enacted into law as soon as possible to protect children who are already in vulnerable situations due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
She said that “ending child marriage requires a coordinated multi-sectoral approach that will engage girls, boys, parents, teachers, national and local authorities and decision makers, and a broad range of other stakeholders.”
She said this is why the bill must include a provision requiring duty-bearers to ensure that women and girls are not only consulted but are able to participate fully in all stages of decision-making.
Media reported on Tuesday that the approved bill on 2nd reading includes penalties for adults arranging and performing child marriage.
Oxfam is a part of the “Girl Defenders” alliance, which includes lawmakers, youth campaigners, women’s rights organizations, and government agencies such as the Commission on Human Rights and the Philippine Commission on Women.
The ‘Girl Defenders’ campaign is supported by the project Creating Space to Take Action on Violence Against Women and Girls jointly implemented by the Almujadilah Women’s Association (AMWA), United Youth of the Philippines-Women (UnYPhil-Women), Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) with support from Oxfam and Global Affairs Canada.
Kristine Sabillo Guerrero | Senior Officer for Media and Digital Influencing, Oxfam Pilipinas