Child marriage became illegal in the Philippines on Thursday when a law banning the practice came into effect in a country where one in six girls marries before the age of 18.

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

But the new law, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte and made available to the public on Thursday, provides prison sentences of up to 12 years for marriage or cohabitation with anyone under the age of 18.

“The state … regards child marriage as a practice that constitutes child abuse because it degrades the worth and dignity of children , belittles and humiliated, “the law says.

The government says the law is in line with international conventions the rights of women and children.

However, some parts of the legislation have been suspended for a year to allow a transition period for Muslims and indigenous communities, where child marriages are relatively common.

According to a report by the Children’s Fund United Nations last year, more than half a billion childhood girls and women were married around the world, with the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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