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#GirlsNotBrides: Ending Child Marriage in the Philippines

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  • Today, 1 out of 6 Filipina girls are married before they are 18 years old.

  • Child marriage is a human rights violation that disrupts the development and growth of young girls, leading to teenage pregnancy, lower educational attainment and employability, higher risk of domestic violence.

  • Key action points: 1) Ensure evidence-based policy formulation and programmatic interventions for both prevention and mitigation of child marriage; 2) Empower adolescent girls and place them at the center of programming efforts; 3) Pursue transformational change in social norms for eliminating child marriage, also by engaging men/boys, parents and community leaders.

The United Nations defines child marriage as any formal marriage or informal union where one or both of the parties are under 18 years of age. Child marriage is a violation of human rights as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), all of which the Philippines has either signed or ratified. Child marriage compromises the development of girls and results in early pregnancy and social isolation, with little education and poor vocational training, reinforcing the gendered nature of poverty. Most child marriages are also forced marriages, where the consent of the child is not considered before the consummation of the union. While some boys are affected by child marriage, the issue impacts girls in far larger numbers and with more intensity.

Human Rights Violation and Hindrance to Sustainable Growth

The global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has a specific target (5.3) aiming at eliminating child marriage along with other harmful practices. Indeed, 'half of the entire SDGs will not be achieved without significant progress on child marriage, including those related to poverty, health, education, nutrition, food security, economic growth and reduction of inequality, including gender inequality.'

More than 700 million girls and women alive today were married as children. 21% of young women aged 20 to 24 were married before they were 18, down from 25% a decade ago. There has been a small increase in the pace of decline of child marriage globally (driven largely by South Asia) but the decrease is nowhere near the rate required to eliminate this harmful practice by 2030 in line with the SDG target. Global progress would need to be 12 times over the rates of decline tracked over the past decade in order to eliminate child marriage.

While the practice of child marriage has slowly been declining, particularly for girls under age 15, more concerted efforts are needed to accelerate the pace of change. If there is no reduction in child marriage, up to 280 million more girls alive today are at risk of becoming brides before they turn 18. The effects of population growth mean that this number will approach 320 million by 2050. If current trends continue, the total number of women alive that were married in childhood will grow from more than 700 million today to almost 1 billion women and girls by 2030.