POPCOM-Region II finally found hope in ending its long battle of eliminating child marriages in the region with the enactment of Republic Act 11596 otherwise known as “An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriages and Imposing Penalties” which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last December 10, 2021.

“Ending child marriages will significantly contribute to eliminating repeat teenage pregnancies. We are glad that the Philippines finally has a concrete policy in protecting the rights of adolescent girls,” POPCOM Regional Director Herito O. Macarubbo said.

In 2019, a total of 16,587 early marriages were recorded among 18-24 years old in Region 2 according to Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and 9,919 of these marriages involve young women and older men.

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, as stated in RA 11596.

Further, child marriage refers to any marriage entered into where one or both parties are children and solemnized in civil or church proceedings, or in any recognized traditional, cultural, or customary manner. It shall include an informal union or cohabitation outside of wedlock between an adult and a child, or between children.

 “Older men shoud not take advantage of the vulnerabilities of young women especially on decision-making and bodily autonomy,” RD Macarubbo emphasized.

Furthermore, Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses of full age.” Hence, girls under 18 years of age cannot and should not be forced to cohabitate with their partners.

The said law considers child marriage as a practice constituting child abuse because it ‘debases, degrades and demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of children’.  As such, the facilitation and solemnization of child marriage are prohibited under this law.

To realize the objectives of the law, POPCOM-Region II is working closely with local government units (LGUs), regional line agencies (RLAs),  civil society organizations (CSOs), academe and other relevant stakeholders in empowering adolescents through the provision of correct and critical information on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights.

With the sustained advocacy efforts of program partners and amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, POPCOM-Region II was able to reach out to a total of 9,044 adolescents regionwide in providing information and technical assistance to youth-serving agencies and organizations in 2021 through the use of various communication/social media platforms.