MANILA – The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) on Friday lauded the Philippines’ passing of a law criminalizing child marriage, noting its importance as “another layer of protection” for children.

In a statement, Unicef Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said the passage of Republic Act 11596 or the “Prohibition of Child Marriage Law” strengthens the country’s legal framework and protection of Filipino children.

“(The law) underscores the commitment of the government as a state party to fully implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Dendevnorov said.

Child marriage, she said, is a “human rights violation that can result in a lifetime of suffering,” both for young girls and their children.

“Girls who marry before turning 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence and abuse,” Dendevnorov said.

Compared to women in their 20s, she said, young girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

“If they survive pregnancy and childbirth, the likelihood of their infants to be stillborn or die in the first month of life is quite high,” Dendevnorov said.

She said the Unicef and its partner organizations would “remain committed” in ensuring the stringent enactment of the law and supporting the Philippine government in the “complete eradication of child marriage and all forms of violence against children.”

“Unicef will be steadfast in safeguarding other actions, including social protection measures, equitable access to education, uninterrupted health services, and empowerment of children and young people,” Dendevnorov said.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 10, 2021, and was released to the media on Thursday.

The law defines child marriage as any marriage where one or both parties are children and solemnized in civil or church proceedings, or any recognized traditional, cultural, or customary manner.

It includes the informal union or cohabitation outside of wedlock between an adult and a child or between children. (PNA)