A HOUSE leader on Monday strongly urged her colleagues in the House of Representatives to finally pass a bill banning child marriages in the Philippines.
“Now is the time for us to break the chain of child marriage because each child, a girl-child especially, has the right to dream, and as legislators, it is our responsibility to pass laws that would help them fulfill their dreams,” said Deputy Speaker and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera.
Herrera noted that senators had already approved on third and final reading Senate Bill (SB) No. 1373 declaring child marriage illegal last November, while its counterpart measure in the lower chamber—House Bill (HB) 1486— remains pending at the committee level.
Principally authored by Herrera, HB 1486 explicitly prohibits child marriage across the country, and provides programs and services for prevention and response.
The bill has been pending with the House committee on justice for some time until it was recently transferred to the House committee on women and gender equality, which is scheduled to conduct its first hearing on the matter on May 19.
Herrera expressed optimism on the immediate passage of the bill that would ensure that all Filipino children will have the opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential, and to eventually decide when and with whom to marry.
She branded child, early, arranged or forced marriage as “a form of child abuse.”
“Ito ay hindi panghihimasok sa paniniwala ng iba ngunit isang matinding paalala na ang mga bata ay higit sa lahat dapat mahalin, alagaan at ilayo sa anumang pang-aabuso,” Herrera explained.
According to the party-list solon, children or young adults who are forced into marriage because of a circumstance that is not acceptable to society or to help a family get out of poverty will make them feel trapped inside a marriage they never wanted to be in to begin with.
“Para silang nakakulong sa isang lugar na hindi nila gusto,” she pointed out. “Eventually it will catch up to them and would want to break free from that marriage and it is the children who are born out of that marriage who will suffer.
Herrera expressed belief that no parent or anybody for that matter has the right to force a child or a young adult to get married against their will.
“Let them be free to choose who they want to marry, otherwise they will long for that and the marriage will fail because of that absence of freedom to choose for themselves who they want to spend the rest of their life with,” she stresses.
Herrera said children must be allowed to “make informed decisions for themselves by guiding them and not by making decisions for them.”