Duterte government imposes 12 years in prison for those who marry minors

Marriage with children became illegal on January 6 in the Philippines when a law that prevents this practice came into force in a country where one in six minors marries before the age of 18.

The law, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte and released this Thursday, establishes prison sentences of up to 12 years for adults who marry or cohabit with a minor under 18 years of age.

The same penalty applies to those who arrange or formalize unions with minors.

The impoverished Southeast Asian country ranks 12th in the world for child marriages, according to the UK-based group Plan International. Long-standing cultural practices and gender inequality make change difficult.

“The State views child marriage as a practice that constitutes child abuse because it corrupts, degrades and belittles the intrinsic value and dignity of children,” the law states.

According to the Government, the law is consistent with international conventions on the rights of women and children.

However, parts of the law were suspended for a year to give a transition period to Muslim and indigenous communities for which the marriage of minors is relatively common.

A UNICEF report last year noted that more than 500,000 girls and women around the world were married in their childhood, with the highest levels in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Recent data indicates that the practice is in decline around the world.