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Philippines bans child marriage

MANILA (AFP) – Child marriage became illegal in the Philippines yesterday as a law banning the practice took effect in a country where one in six girls enters wedlock before the age of 18.

The Southeast Asian country has the 12th highest number of child marriages in the world, according to Britain-based rights group Plan International, with long-held cultural practices and gender inequalities hindering change.

But the new law, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte and released to the public yesterday, lays out prison terms of up to 12 years for marrying or cohabiting with anyone under 18.

People arranging or solemnising underage unions also face the same penalty.

“The state… views child marriage as a practice constituting child abuse because it debases, degrades, and demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of children,” the law states.

The government says the law is consistent with international conventions on the rights of women and children.