Women’s commission ramps up campaign against child marriage

ILIGAN CITY (PIA) — The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) is intensifying efforts to disseminate information on Republic Act 11596, also known as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Law.

During a forum held on April 23, lawyer Khay Ann C. Magundayao-Borlado, officer-in-charge of PCW, said they partnered with Oxfam Pilipinas and local government units in Lanao del Norte province to raise awareness about the law.

“Ang PCW sa pakikipagtulungan sa Oxfam Pilipinas at local chief executives dito sa lalawigan ng Lanao del Norte ay nananawagan sa lahat para paigtingin ang kamalayan ng lahat sa batas na prohibtion on child marriage. Kung sino man ang mga nakaalam ng ganitong gawain ay pwede silang magreport dahil ang batas na ito isang public crime, kahit sino ay pwedeng magreport,” she said.

(The PCW, in collaboration with Oxfam Pilipinas and local chief executives in Lanao del Norte province, calls on everyone to raise awareness about the law prohibiting child marriage. Anyone with knowledge of such activities can report them, as this law designates child marriage as a public crime open to reporting by anyone.)

The forum, organized by PCW-North Mindanao Field Office and Oxfam Pilipinas, aimed to address the prevalence of child marriage.

Lawyer Khristine Kay M. Lazarito-Calingin, chief gender and development specialist of PCW-North Mindanao Field Office, highlighted the urgency of collaborative efforts in combating child marriage, citing data from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund from 2017. This data documented over 700,000 cases globally, with the Philippines ranking 12th in this aspect.

“It takes a village to raise a child; need natin ng collaborative efforts hindi lang sa gobyerno but local leaders and the community. We have to work together. There is no reason or excuse; child marriage is child abuse. I hope makiisa tayo sa kampanya to end this child marriage,”  Lazarito-Calingin said.

(It takes a village to raise a child; we need collaborative efforts not only from the government but also from local leaders and the community. There is no reason or excuse; child marriage is child abuse. I hope we all unite in the campaign to end this child marriage.)

Oxfam Pilipinas Gender Justice Portfolio manager Jeanette Kindipan-Dulawan highlighted that the objective of the law is to prevent child marriage by creating an environment that enables programs to protect children who are victims of it.

RA 11596, signed on Dec. 10, 2021, prohibits the marriage of individuals below 18 years old, regardless of gender, aiming to shield them from the detrimental effects of early and forced marriages and safeguard their rights and welfare.

Under the law, arranging and officiating child marriages, as well as adults cohabiting with children, are now labeled as “public crimes.” Those found guilty, including solemnizing officers, parents, guardians, and other adults involved in arranging child marriages, will face penalties of at least P40,000 in fines and up to 12 years of imprisonment.

The forum was attended by various local government officials from Iligan City and Lanao del Norte province, as well as solemnizing officials and Indigenous Peoples leaders from Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon, and Misamis Oriental.

Mayor Frederick Siao of Iligan City assured that they will strive to implement the law properly while respecting the customs and traditions of its diverse population, comprising Christians, Muslims, and Higaonons.

“Ang local government, importante gyud nga maoy frontline sa pagcombat sa child marriage. I would like to personally commit ang involvement sa local government of Iligan niining kalihokan,” he affirmed.

(The local government is indeed crucial as the frontline in combating child marriage. I would like to personally commit the involvement of the local government of Iligan in this endeavor.)

Mayor Jimmy Cabahug of Tubod town emphasized the role of the LGU in nurturing children to become responsible citizens in the future, stressing the importance of education in guiding them toward their life goals and ambitions rather than starting a family at an early age.

The forum also served as a platform for various government and non-government agencies to share their programs and services forpreventing and addressing child marriages in Northern Mindanao.

Partner organizations included LGUs, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, Save the Children Philippines, and various government agencies such as the Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, National Commission of Indigenous Peoples, Commission on Human Rights, Philippine National Police, Commission on Population and Development, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Justice, and Philippine Army, among others. (LELA, PIA Region 10 -Lanao del Norte)

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