This article is about Republic Act 11596 which criminalizes and punishes child marriages and cohabitation with children.
Acts Prohibited under Republic Act 11596
Republic Act 11596 defines a child as any human being under eighteen (18) years of age, or any person eighteen (18) years of age or over but who is unable to fully take care and protect oneself from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition. Thus, a person who marries an individual who falls under the definition of a ‘child’ is deemed to have committed a public crime, which can be prosecuted at the instance of any individual. From this law, two criminal acts are defined and punished: a) Facilitation of a Child Marriage and (b) Solemnization of a Child Marriage.
Facilitation of a Child Marriage
Facilitation of a Child Marriage is defined as causing, fixing, facilitating or arranging a marriage with a person under eighteen (18) years of age. The act of producing, printing, issuing or distributing fraudulent or tampered documents, such as birth certificates, affidavits of delayed registration of birth and/or foundling certificates for the purpose of misrepresenting the age of a child to facilitate child marriage or evade liability under the law is included in the crime. The person liable in this act is punished with the penalty of prision mayor in its medium period and a fine of not less than Forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00). If the person liable is an ascendant, parent, adoptive parent, stepparent, or guardian of the child, the punishment is a higher penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period, or fine of not less than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00), and perpetual loss of parental authority.
Solemnization of a Child Marriage
Solemnization of a Child Marriage is the penalty imposed on the person who officiates or solemnizes the child marriage. Under Article 7 of the Family Code, the persons who may be liable under this act are the following persons who are authorized to solemnize a marriage: (1) Any incumbent member of the judiciary within the court’s jurisdiction; (2) Any priest, rabbi, imam, or minister of any church or religious sect duly authorized by his church or religious sect and registered with the civil registrar general, acting within the limits of the written authority granted by his church or religious sect and provided that at least one of the contracting parties belongs to the solemnizing officer’s church or religious sect; (3) Any ship captain or airplane chief; (4) Any military commander of a unit to which a chaplain is assigned, in the absence of the latter, during a military operation, and (5) Any consul-general, consul or vice-consul.
Cohabitation with a Child is also Punished
Aside from punishing those involved in child marriages, the law goes further and imposes penal sanction on adults who engage in affairs with children. In Section 4(c) of Republic Act 11596, an adult partner who cohabits with a child outside wedlock shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period and a fine of not less than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00). This means that cohabitation by an adult, with a person under eighteen (18) years of age, is now considered a crime.
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