‘Girls Not Brides Act’ reinforces ZFF’s ASRH initiatives

The Senate of the Philippines passed unanimously the “Girls Not Brides Act” or Senate Bill No. 1371, after the third reading.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, filed the bill in March 2020.

Quoting data from the United Children’s Fund (Unicef), Hontiveros said on her Twitter account “the Philippines is the top 12th country in terms of the number of child brides. A shocking 726,000 of our girls have been contracted into marriages they never asked for.”

The bill states that “anyone who arranges, facilitates, or officiates child marriages” will serve a prison sentence of up to 12 years and has to pay a fine of P50,000. Violators also will be held liable under Republic Act No. 7610, or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

“It is our duty to protect them. Our girls now and tomorrow deserve better,” Hontiveros said.

Partner-LGUs of the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) in Mindanao, undergoing Youth and Leadership Governance Program (YLGP), have introduced or drafted ordinances prohibiting child and forced marriages. Five municipalities in Region 12 and five in Lanao del Sur started the program in 2019, with Module 1 launched in August 2019 in Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat.

YLGP Sarangani-Sultan Kudarat has a municipal ordinance (Malungon, Sarangani) on anti-child and forced marriage. Columbio (Sultan Kudarat) and Malapatan and Maitum (Sarangani) followed Malungon’s lead and are currently drafting a similar ordinance. Kalamansig, also in Sultan Kudarat, plans to draft the same ordinance.

ZFF’s YLGP, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund, is a five-year leadership capacity-building initiative that engages members of Sangguniang Kabataan. Their participation in the Bridging Leadership aims to build their competencies to boost their local government’s adolescent sexual reproductive health (ASRH) program, which is hoped to reduce teenage pregnancy. Participants are expected to take part in their local government’s efforts to improve ASRH programs and policies that are inclusive and responsive to the needs of the youth.