Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)
What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?
According to UNICEF, the Philippines has the 12th highest absolute number of child brides in the world at 726,000.
Women in Armm, Mimaropa and Soccsksargen marry earlier than those in other regions.
Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys. There is limited information on child marriage in the Philippines, but available studies show that it is driven by:
- Trafficking: The trafficking of women and girls from rural regions of Visayas and Mindanao to urban cities such as Cebu City, Manila and Quezon City is common. Trafficking also occurs in tourist destinations such as Boracay, Angeles City and Surigao where there is a high demand for commercial sex from women and girls. Some girls are forced into marriage. The Philippines’ popular mail-order bride industry also places girls at risk of being subject to forced marriage.
- Religion: The Muslim Law on Personal Status, based on Sharia law, allows marriage at the age of 15 for boys and at the onset of puberty for girls. The Philippines is predominantly Roman Catholic and the only country in the world that does not allow divorce. This places young married girls in a particularly vulnerable position.
What has this country committed to?
The Philippines has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The government did not provide an update on progress towards this target during its Voluntary National Review at the 2016 High Level Political Forum.
The Philippines co-sponsored the 2014 UN General Assembly resolution on child, early and forced marriage.
The Philippines ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1981, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
The Philippines has committed to the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Violence against Children (2013), which acknowledges the importance of strengthening ASEAN efforts to protect children from all forms of violence, including early marriage.
During the Philippines’ 2017 Universal Periodic Review, the Human Rights Committee recommended that the government revise the minimum age of marriage for girls in the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.
In 2016 the CEDAW Committee urged the government to eliminate the root causes of child and forced marriage, including poverty, conflict and insecurity, as well as vulnerability to the impact of natural disasters. It also raised concerns between the provisions of the Magna Carta on Women and those of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws and customary laws applicable to indigenous communities, which drive harmful practices such as child and forced marriage.
In 2012 a UN envoy warned that Filipino girls are at particular risk of being forced into marriage and that the sexual exploitation of girls remained socially and culturally tolerated in the Philippines.
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
Under the Family Code 1988 the legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for both girls and boys. However girls are eligible to marry as soon as they reach puberty and with permission of the court under the Muslim Law on Personal Status.
ASEAN Commission on the Rights of Women and Children, The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Elimination of Violence against Children in ASEAN, 2013, (accessed February 2018)
Foreign Policy, The last country in the world where divorce is illegal, [website], 2015, (accessed April 2018)
Global Nation, UN envoy warns on human trafficking in Philippines, [website], 2012, (accessed April 2018)
Philippine Statistics Authority, Philippines National Demographic and Health Survey 2013, 2014, (accessed April 2018)
Tahirih Justice Centre, Forced Marriage Overseas: Philippines, [website], 2018, (accessed April 2018)
UNICEF, Reversing the Trend: Child Trafficking in East and South-East Asia, 2009, (accessed April 2018)
UN CEDAW, Concluding observations on the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of the Philippines, 2016, p.15, (accessed April 2018)
UN General Assembly, Compilation on the Philippines Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2017, p.10,(accessed February 2018)
United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)
United States State Department, US Trafficking in Persons Report, Philippines, 2016, (accessed April 2018)