Relevantly, the Zonta Club of Cebu 2, in a well-attended webinar, supported Senate Bill 1373 authored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros (Girls Not Brides Act). In the words of the senator, “Child early and forced marriages are a tragic reality to which girls are subjected largely due to economic circumstances, cultural expectations and outdated beliefs and norms.”
The senator continued: “Child marriage is a form of abuse, is criminal and should never have a place in our society. There are girls who are forced to enter this state because of the baseless conception that the measure of a woman or girl is determined only by being a wife, mother or homemaker.”
Zontian lawyer Mae Elaine Bathan, in her introductory address, said the freedom of choice is among the rights of every Filipino, and does not exempt girls. Highlighted too, were some of the public’s sentiments of Bill 1373, showing a lack of awareness on this subject.
Even Unicef has entered the picture, saying that 10 million child marriages may occur before the end of the decade. The Philippines was ranked 12th in the world with the prevalence of child marriages.
As part of the vision of Zonta Club of Cebu 2 to educate every citizen on the importance of Bill 1373, club president Cristina “Petite” Garcia pledged to support the campaign to end child marriages, and emphasized that ”social change cannot succeed without community engagement.”
In rapt attendance were members of Zonta Club of Cebu 1, Iloilo, NCR, Bacolod, Davao, Gensan, and CDO. Other Cebu VIPs included members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu City Chapter, LGUs represented by Mandaue City Councilor Hon. Cynthia Remedio, and Cebu City Councilor Niña Mabatid, police officers and representatives of Mandaue Local Office of Muslim Affairs.
Although the Philippines is a signatory to international laws concerning child brides, the legislation that the country has, lacks in protecting these girls. The “Girls Not Brides Act,” if passed into a law, will provide the necessary protection.
Senator Hontiveros concluded by emphasizing: “Let us help each other help our children. Let us ensure that our girls simply be children, who can still dream, hope and enjoy the bright future that awaits them.”
Waiting hopefully are the compassionate senator, as well as the Zontians of Cebu 2, that Bill 1373 would be passed in the 18th Congress!