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(Delivered by REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN during PLCPD’s “GirlDefendersUNITE Campaign for the Implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Law” on 30 November 2023)

On this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and as the principal author of RA No. 11596 or the “Prohibition of Child Marriage Law”, I wish to reiterate my unwavering and untiring support to the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development’s campaign calling for the comprehensive full and speedy implementation of the PCM law and the creation of a future where our daughters will be free from violence and abuse.

Child marriage is a patent violation of girls and is an affront to their basic human rights.

It is a practice that not only infringes on their fundamental rights but also jeopardizes their overall well-being and development.

It cheats them of their childhood; robs them of their entitlement to an education; and deprives them of their right to choose their own future. It denies them the opportunity to flourish and fulfill their potential.

Instead, it thrusts them prematurely into adulthood, often subjecting them to a life of hardship and limited opportunities.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage law is a crucial step towards ensuring a brighter future for the country's children, especially girls, and its full and faithful implementation is imperative for the following reasons:

One, the law ensures that children are protected from early and forced marriages, allowing them to have a childhood free from the burdens and responsibilities that come with marriage.

Two, child marriage has numerous negative consequences on both individual children and society as a whole. It perpetuates the cycle of poverty, as child brides are less likely to complete their education and more likely to face economic hardships. Furthermore, they often experience adverse health outcomes due to early pregnancies and childbirth, which can have long-term implications on their health and welfare. They also face a higher likelihood of experiencing complications, even death, during childbirth as their bodies are not yet fully developed for the rigors of pregnancy and labor.

Three, research has clearly shown that child brides are more susceptible to domestic violence and sexual abuse, as they are often trapped in relationships where they have little or no power to protect themselves. Ending child marriage can contribute to breaking this cycle of violence.

Four, the law penalizes the facilitation of child marriage and solemnization of child marriage but goes a step further by also outlawing cohabitation of an adult with a child outside wedlock. Moreover, additional and harsher penalties are levied if the perpetrator is a public officer or an ascendant, parent, adoptive parent, step parent, or guardian of the child.

Finally, the PCM law supports and enhances the Philippines’ international commitments to conventions such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, International Conference on Population and Development, and the Sustainable Development Goals. By taking a steadfast stand against child marriage, the Philippines demonstrates its commitment and renews its pledge to uphold human rights and achieve genuine and sustainable development.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure that every child has the right to a safe and nurturing childhood, free from the burdens of early marriage. The State, civil society organizations, and individuals must come together to put an end to this dangerous and damaging practice.

But legislation alone is not enough to eradicate child marriage. We need comprehensive strategies that address the root causes of this practice, such as poverty, gender inequality, and harmful traditional beliefs.

I cannot overemphasize the importance education plays in combating child marriage. By investing on girls' education, we empower them to make informed decisions about their lives, break the cycle of poverty, and challenge societal norms that perpetuate child marriage. Community engagement, awareness campaigns, and access to quality healthcare and support services are also crucial in transforming societal attitudes and dismantling the structures that allow child marriage to persist.

We must create environments where girls can thrive and make the most of their talents, where their voices are heard, and their rights are protected.

Let us join hands and work tirelessly to ensure that every girl has the chance to realize her full potential, to dream big, and to shape her own destiny. Together, we can create a world where child marriages become relics of the past and vestiges of a nightmare from which we have all awakened.