At Large

Pinay child brides


We call them “child brides,” girls who get married before they reach the age of 18, and whose futures are compromised by this premature introduction into the adult world of marriage, motherhood, sex, and household responsibilities.

While the majority of child marriages in the world take place in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the phenomenon is not unknown in this country. Statistics compiled by the National Statistical Coordination Board show that for the year 2011, a total of 58,320 girls (12.2 percent) below 20 years of age got married. In contrast, only 12,882 (2.7 percent) teenage boys became grooms, which bears out the observation that many child brides are married off to much older men. (If you want to play around with statistics, note that only 192 women age 70-74 got married in 2011, compared to 805 men of the same age range.)

Many of these marriages, where one or both partners were below 18 years, took place in poor, rural areas, where norms tolerating, if not encouraging, the practice are common. These include Muslim communities where men under Sharia law are allowed up to four wives, and indigenous cultural communities where multiple families are common and civil registration of marriages and births seldom takes place.

Does this explain the observation that, despite the overall decline in marriages around the country, marriages in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao increased by 79.7 percent in 2011 compared with the previous year?

Whatever, child marriage has been called one of the most common forms of violations of human rights in the world, “posing great risks to the girls involved,” according to the “Women Under Siege” project. These risks go beyond the loss of childhood or adolescent freedom, and can extend to threats to health, violation of the right to education, and even compromise the brides’ future and that of their children.

* * *

Girls who become mothers “frequently before their bodies are completely ready,” wrote journalist Max Fisher in an article in The Washington Post, face serious threats to their health and survival. “In developing countries, where almost all child marriages take place,” writes Fisher, “complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the No. 1 cause of death for girls age 15 to 19. That means that pregnancy and childbirth kill more girls in the developing world than war, AIDS, tuberculosis or any other cause.”

The reason early motherhood is so deadly for girls is simply that “their bodies are not ready.” Indeed, in developing countries, a girl or woman is twice as likely to die in childbirth if she’s age 15 to 19 than she is if she’s in her 20s. Girls are five times as likely to die.

In addition, marriages between a girl and a much older man are “typically far from equal.” “Keep in mind that husbands to child brides are typically adults and may have often paid her parents for the privilege; many activists consider child marriages to be a form of human trafficking… the buying and selling of human beings,” writes Fisher.

* * *

In this situation of inequality, as Fisher observes, “the conditions of child marriage make marital rape more likely.” Indeed, Unicef calls child marriage “the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls.”

Fisher adds: “Some activists argue that, in cases where the bride is clearly a young child, sex in such marriages should not be considered consensual. Separately, the fact that the husband may have paid for his bride can set up a dynamic that’s more transactional than romantic. Comprehensive statistics on marital rape are not available and, in any case, what constitutes marital rape can be tough to define in places where a girl grows up learning that she’s expected to do her ‘marital duty.’ Still, Human Rights Watch cites a number of anecdotal cases that clearly qualify as rapes, often justified as function of the girls’ marriage.”

Powerless and completely under their older husbands’ thumbs, young wives have little say on their future. A natural and common consequence is that after marriage, a girl is forced to leave school, “often left totally reliant on their husbands.” Observes Fisher: “This leaves (the girls) with little future except as a housewife and mother, a life they never have the opportunity to choose willingly as an adult. Having dropped out of school so young also makes it that much tougher for them, because they have little means to provide for themselves, to leave their marriage if the husband is abusive.”

* * *

One in seven girls in the developing world is married before turning 15, Fisher notes, and, he says, “that population is expected to grow rapidly, far outpacing the rest of the world.”

“Girls are the world’s forgotten population,” Fisher quotes Lauren Wolfe, of the Women Under Siege project. Indeed, voiceless and powerless even before they got married or had children, girls are often overlooked, if not ignored. In the eyes of many adults, maybe even including their parents, marriage could even be their “salvation,” even if it means putting them under the domination of a man who paid for her company, if not her body. And even if her consent was neither sought nor given.

It is in the face of this rising number of child brides and underage marriages, and the horrible consequences the phenomenon bears on the girls’ health and their future as well as that of their children, that we might do well (or at least, the Supreme Court justices could) to consider the provisions of the Reproductive Health Law, especially those on the provision of age-appropriate sexuality education, and access to RH services to all, regardless of age or civil status.

It’s time we gave our girls voice and power.

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  • ConnieLee90

    Child bride or child abuse practices are probably as old as human history itself. For as long as there are pedophiliac men, children are always vulnerable prey. In advance countries, laws have not only been enacted but have aggressively been enforced to protect children.

    No education or moral scruples would restrain the appetites of men to pander to children. They are a sick breed. They will not wait for the fruits to ripen up for the picking.

  • Simpleng_ofw

    Sometime last year I watched a GMA7 episode of Eye Witness (if I’m not mistaken) featuring an island in Pampanga where girls as young as 13 got married and pregnant. They just didn’t finish high school and innocently engaged themselves in motherhood responsibilities. In fact, it was a common trend in that island and the parents just gave it a cold shoulder. It’s a practice there for young boys and girls to stay up late at night, playing, and then some ek-ek. I bet the population in that place will increase every day hehe. Diyan kasi magaling ang iba nating kababayan. Gud luck sa kahirapan.

    • Crazy_horse101010

      it isnt just pampanga. that is common here where i live 13 and 14 year old girls carrying babies lives ruined i know some who by the age 15 have 2 babies. go anywhere in the mountains and you will find it that is why the philippines is one of the world leaders in teen age pregnancies no sex education no birth control thats what happens.

      • Simpleng_ofw

        We remain a Third World poverty-stricken country because of the “holier-than-thou” attitude of church people under the influence of Catholic clergy. They’re in denial of the rapidly increasing incidents of teenage pregnancy, premarital sex, and AIDs. This problem will of course worsen if they succeed in delaying the RH bill. And truly speaking, the people who go to church religiously are the ones from the Middle Class who generally use contraceptives to limit the size of their families. They have the time and luxury of religion while the very poor don’t even bother to go to church. I once lived in a squatter colony and in that part of the city, only a few cared about going to church. Everything is just plain hypocrisy.

      • Crazy_horse101010

        sex education here is some boy saying i love you and i want to show you something then wham bam thank you maam and goodbye

  • brunogiordano

    Mary(mother of jesus)

    “She married Joseph and accompanied him to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.[5] In keeping with Jewish custom, the betrothal would have taken place when she was around 12, and the birth of Jesus about a year later.”

    Wala pa kasing HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH noon.

    May RH LAW na tayo subalit pilit pa rin tinututulan ng mga DAMASO at maka-DAMASO ito.


    Very obvious.

    Dahil ang NAIS ng mga DAMASO ay dumami lalo ang mga MAHIHIRAP at. MANGMANG.

  • Fulpol

    Rina David is trying to connect child brides to RH Law.. she always do the trick..

    Marrying children, where the girl is the child bride is a culture and tradition of some society like in Mindanao.. it is an arrangement of parents, perhaps for reasons that they held culturally since their first ancestors.. in the context of other culture, that traditional practice seemed not right..

    what is the relationship of RH Law to this traditional practice?? none..

    if you talked about young girls getting married because they did sex early and get pregnant prior to marriage.. that is not cultural or traditional.. in this case you can connect RH Law.. but this concern is not actually about reproductive issue.. it is more of a social and economic issue.. they married early because they stopped going to school because they have no money to finance their schooling..

  • philcitizen

    One cannot force pig as food to the muslims. One cannot force beef as food to the hindus. Respect to a social culture, tradition, and practices. If one wants change in someone’s culture, tradition and practices it would take time to understand the whys and thus to have the answer.

    One maybe right in his point of view may not be right to a whole culture and tradition.

    • brunogiordano

      Culture, tradition o religion ay walang karapatan iisang tabi ang HUMAN RIGHTS ng mga BABAE.

      • philcitizen

        yes, you are correct. that is in our point or view and belief. go then in mindanao and educate them. live with them and try to understand their beliefs.

      • brunogiordano

        May ilan mga muslin na BABAE na ngayon ay humihingi ng kanilang HUMAN RIGHTS.

        Tulad mo dapat natin suportahan ang kanilang pinaglalaban at huwag sabihin walang magagawa dahil ganoon talaga iyo kahit mali.

        Suportahan natin ang HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH sa pagpapalaganap ng HUMAN RIGHTS ng mga BABAE.

      • philcitizen

        tulad ng sinabi ko, may mga bagay na tama sa iyo pero mali sa iba. sa tingin mo ba aware sila about human rights kung di naman sila nakapag-aral? idagdag mo pa na simula’t sapul yun na yung kostumbre nila. yung idea na human rights di pa nila yan masyado maintindihan.

        ikaw, kung halimbawa nakaugalian mo nang may saplot tapos may bigla magsasabi sa iyo na hindi tama na may saplot ka? papayag ka ba agad na tanggalin mo saplot mo?

        oo, sa ngayon medyo may mga natututo na. yan ay dahil sa edukasyon.

      • $3741640

        isa tanong lang…sa atin mga mga edukado at nakapagaral…hahayaan mo bang ipagpatuloy nila ang kanilang costumbre o kaugalian kun alam mo may mali at maari nakamamatay? Saan papasok ang atin pananagutan bilang isang taga patnubay at taga gabay sa kanilang buhay? Mali ba kun sila ay bibigyan natin ng tamang kaalaman at edukasyon? Maitutring ba ito panhihimasok sa kanilang costumbre at paniniwala? Isang halimbawa ay ang mga Saksi ni Jehovah….isa ka docktor at maari mamatay ang iyong pasyente dahil mauubusan ng dugo , ngunit sa kanilang paniniwala ay bawal magsalin ng dugo! Bilang isang doktor…hahayaan mo sya mamatay?

      • philcitizen

        malaya ka naman na ituro sa kanila ang sa alam mo ay tama. tulad ng sinabi ko it takes time to understand other’s cultures and tradition. ang punto ko, respetuhin mo cultura o custombre nila habang pinapangaralan mo sila. kung hindi, yan ang isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit may gulo, conflict, at giyera.

        gusto kasi natin, kung ano yung alam natin na tama at kung ano yung kaugalian natin ay dapat tularan din ng iba.

        kailangan intindihin mo muna at pag-aralan kung anu sila, kung anu kaugalian nila, kung anu tradisyon nila bago mo sila pangaralan.

  • panhase

    Interestingly written and who would condone such practices? But there are some assumptions not backed up by data. For example she is talking about child brides and then in her second paragraph she states that in 2001 58.320 girls below the age of 20, that is twenty, got married. How many of these below 20 were child brides? She goes on stating that only 12.882 teenage boys became grooms, but she does not tell us the actual age of the grooms. It could be also a 18 year old girls is married to a 21 or maybe 25 year old boy or man. We don´t know this because she does not tell us. Later she is quoting journalist Max Fisher that one in seven girls in the developing world is married before she reaches the age of 15, but does this apply to the Philippines also? I really would like to know.

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