The non-government and reproductive advocate Roots of Health (Ugat ng Kalusugan) sees the Senate’s approval of the measure banning child marriage as important in helping strengthen efforts to protect the rights of women and children.

“We celebrate the Senate’s approval of the Girls Not Brides Act. Outlawing child marriages is not only a win for girls whose futures will now be more protected. It is also a win for the country because when girls can delay pregnancy they and their future families will be healthier and wealthier,” Roots of Health executive director Amina Swanepoel told Palawan News.

Senate Bill No. 1373 or the proposed Girls Not Brides Act authored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros was passed with a vote of 21-0.  Among its other provisions, it declares child marriage as a crime.

“The issue of child, early and forced marriages is one that is largely invisible to us here in Metro Manila, but it is a tragic reality for scores of young girls who are forced by economic circumstances and cultural expectations to shelve their own dreams, begin families they are not ready for and raise children even when their own childhoods have not yet ended,” Hontiveros said in her Facebook page Tuesday.

“We still have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the region and we have many cases of child sexual exploitation and abuse. This law will help prevent these issues from happening and will usher in a new period of greater protections for our children. With this new law, girls will be more likely to stay in school and have more opportunities,” she said.

If the bill enacted into law, any person who facilitates, arranges and fixes a child marriage will suffer the penalty as prison mayor in a medium period and a P40,000 as a fine; a 12-year jail and a fine of not less than P50,000 and will be lost the parental authority for the guardian or be an ascendant of the minor; or if they are public officials, they will be disqualified from their post of office.

“We congratulate Sen. Risa Hontiveros and her colleagues on this accomplishment and celebrate with our fellow reproductive health allies. Para sa magagandang kinabukasan!,” Swanepoel added.