In a landmark move for children’s rights, Republic Act No. 11596 or the “Prohibition of Child Marriage Law” was signed into law on Dec. 10, 2021.

“The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building and shall therefore protect and promote their empowerment. This entails the abolition of the unequal structures and practices that perpetuate discrimination and inequality,” RA 11596 states in its declaration of policy.

In support of the said measure, Minority Floor Leader MP Atty. Laisa Masuhud Alamia said that the policies and programs of the Bangsamoro government “shall take into utmost consideration the best interest of children and promote and protect their rights, including their survival and development.”

“This is found in our very own Bangsamoro Organic Law,” she noted, referring to Section 14 which says that “the Bangsamoro Government shall respect, protect and promote the rights of children, especially orphans of tender age. They shall be protected from exploitation, abuse or discrimination.”

During a session of the Bangsamoro Parliament last Tuesday, January 25, Alamia cited a study conducted by the Bangsamoro Women Commission (BWC) last year, where it was found that “approximately 88,600 child brides were married off in the BARMM in 2021, and 33% of them have actually asked help through the RBWC’s violence against women hotline.”

Based on these figures, at least 29,000 girl children married before the age of 18 were victims of violence against women and children.

MP Alamia, an established women’s and children’s rights advocate in the Bangsamoro, has always supported measures ending child marriages in the Philippines, include the Senate version which is known as the Girls Not Brides Act – named after the Girls Not Brides movement that helmed by a diverse network of civil society organizations working to end child marriage around the world.

The network ranks the Philippines 10th in the world in terms of the number of women below 18 years old who are married or in a union. The number is at 808,000.

In a learning session exploring pathways to end child marriage organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) last year, as part of the #EndChildMarriages and #GirlDefenders campaign, MP Alamia asserted that “allowing child marriages to continue is to allow social conditions that let systemic violence against women and children to persist in our society, leaving them vulnerable to abuse as their rights are set aside and ignored.” 

She has also pointed out how, in the Bangsamoro context, issues surrounding child marriages are “often compounded with the prevalent challenges of violent conflict, poverty, and internal displacement.”