Easier, cheaper way for Filipinos to end marriages

A bill has been put forward in the
Philippine Congress aimed at making it easier for poor people to get their
marriages annulled.

The bill would make violence,
infidelity and abandonment all grounds for annulment.

The Philippines is one of the few
places in the world – alongside the Vatican and Malta – where divorce is still

Annulments are currently too
expensive for anyone but the rich to contemplate.

First, couples have to prove that
their marriage licence is not valid or that one person is, in legal terms at
least, psychologically incapacitated.

It is an expensive procedure, and
Congressman Neri Colmenares says the system discriminates against those who
cannot afford to hire lawyers and psychiatrists.

He wants the bill to be simplified,
so that anyone who can prove their partner has been violent, abandoned the
family home or is guilty of infidelity is automatically assumed to have a form
of “psychological incapacity”.

Mr Colmenares is from a minority
party, and he is likely to face a tough challenge, not just from opponents in
Congress but also the powerful Catholic Church.

But whether his bill succeeds or
not, it highlights a glaring disparity – while poor people can be trapped for
years in abusive marriages, it is not uncommon for the rich to have more than
one marriage annulled.