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CHR denounces Bangsamoro body for moving against anti-child marriage law

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The Human Rights Commission (CHR) said on Friday it was “very disappointed and deeply concerned” by reports that members of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) passed a resolution urging the president Rodrigo Duterte to veto a recently passed law banning child marriage.

In a statement, the commission said it was “alarmed that these members have unilaterally asserted that the Bangsamoro community does not support the law and that some members have asserted that child marriage is embedded in Muslim culture.

The HRC, which is also the country’s ombudsman for gender equality, was referring to the landmark Republic Act No. 11596, which finally prohibits marrying anyone under the age of 18, a practice often seen in indigenous and Muslim communities across the country. . The law was signed by President Duterte on December 10, 2021 and published by Malacañang on January 6.

Local and international groups consider its adoption to be long overdue and a major step in protecting the welfare and rights of children, especially since the Philippines is a state party to the United Nations Convention on children’s rights.

“Very difficult to change”

But a day after a copy of RA 11596 was released earlier this month, the BTA, the interim governing body of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), passed a resolution calling on the president to stop law enforcement.

BARMM Labor and Employment Minister Romeo Sema earlier claimed that getting married at an early age among Filipino Muslim men and women is part of their culture that “is very difficult to change.”

Another Muslim leader from Maguindanao province, Anwar Emblawa, also said that Islam allows women to marry after reaching puberty.

The commission urged BTA members to “listen to their wives and daughters” and to “embrace a vision of Sharia that does not stand in the way of protecting the rights of women and girls.”

He also asked the BTA to reach out to women’s organizations and leaders to raise their concerns and ensure “continued dialogue so that the benefits of this law are fully realized.”

“Farther from the Truth”

The HRC also reminded the body that the law had been the subject of rigorous deliberation and consultation with religious leaders and communities, particularly with women and girls from Muslim and indigenous communities. Many representatives of their communities have already attested to the urgency of the law, he added.

“The claim that this law lacks support from the Bangsamoro community could not be further from the truth. They can only come from individuals who refuse to recognize and minimize the essential participation of women and girls and who continue to cling to harmful practices even as they violate basic human rights,” the commission said. .

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