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The Only State in the World Without Divorce (Other than the Vatican)

The Only State in the World Without Divorce (Other than the Vatican)

Beach wedding in the Philippines

When one thinks of the Philippines, what usually comes to mind is its picturesque beaches, stunning scenery, and friendly people. What most people don’t know is that the Philippines is also the only state in the world (other than the Vatican) without a divorce law.

The reasons behind this are varied and complex. Some say it’s because the Catholic Church has a strong influence in the country and divorce is not condoned by the Church. Others say it’s because of the Philippines’ unique culture and history. Whatever the reason may be, the fact remains that the Philippines is one of the only countries in the world without a divorce law.

For most of the population, the sentiment of not having a divorce law is grounded in keeping the sanctity of the marriage bond intact, which is deeply tied to the country’s Catholic roots. And in cases wherein husband and wife have to separate, those who are against a divorce law will cite alternatives like annulment and legal separation. The way these quarters likely perceive the absence of a divorce law choose to see that there are some benefits to not having one. It encourages couples to work out their differences and stay together for the sake of their children. At its core, the argument is that it also helps to preserve the sanctity of marriage and the family unit.

Of course, there are drawbacks to not having a divorce law. One of the biggest and most apparent is that couples who are unhappy in their marriages are forced to stay together. This can lead to a lot of bitterness and resentment. But the problems with not having a divorce law can be even more damaging to many in the long run.

In this article, we’ll look at the reasons behind the Philippines’ lack of a divorce law, the alternatives that the state offers, and the factors that tell us why we need one.

Basilica del Santo NiaO Philippines
Christian Paul Del Rosario | Pexels

Why is There No Divorce in the Philippines?

As a colony of Spain for more than 300 years, conquered via God, Gold, and Glory, the Filipino people have always had a socially conservative identity. Imagine that in 2022, it is the only nation in the entire world without a divorce law, where abortion is illegal, contraceptives are frowned upon, cannabis use gets people shot and killed, and LGBT folk are still treated like third-class citizens in many sectors. Is it wrong to think that the country’s legislation has remained stuck in the past?

While choosing to think of our present-day laws as a legacy of our collective history or native piety, the reasons to the Philippines not having a divorce law stems from the complicated yet intrinsic relationship between Church and State. Call it stretching one’s imagination or the causality of influence, but think of it this way: politicians fashion themselves to be likable for the electorate, and in a country where an endorsement from the Church can impact (if not guarantee) a win, how else can these politicians curry favor with the faithful lot?

And all things considered, how difficult should it be for a country like the Philippines to follow suit when all 195 countries, from developing economies to the world’s superpowers, allow its people to divorce under certain conditions? It’s not like the Filipino people don’t want it. Bills centered on allowing divorce, such as House Bill No. 7303, have been proposed through the years, but none of these have managed to move past Congress.

In an article from the Economist, “Why the Philippines is the only country where divorce is illegal,” a survey wherein more than half of Filipinos agree that divorce should be made legal in the country is mentioned and highlighted, but despite this public approval, the nature of faith and politics in influencing liberal reforms precedes legislation.

What are the Alternatives to Divorce in the Philippines?

According to Lawyerphilippines.org, there are three ways to “legally separate” (apart from death, of course) when one needs to dissolve a marriage in the Philippines, with the option of possibly remarrying. These three ways include:

  • Recognition of Foreign Divorce, which is only applicable to Filipinos married to a foreigner.
  • Void Marriage, which means that a marriage is considered null and void for failure to meet or comply with certain requirements before or at the time of its celebration. This also includes incestuous relationships and psychological incapacity.
  • Annulment, which is allowed for reasons such as being of a certain age (between 18 and 21 years old), an unsound mind, fraud, coercion, STDs, and failure to consummate the marriage.

It has to be noted that Legal Separation and Judicial Separation of Property is another course of action to invalidate a marriage, but it doesn’t allow one to remarry in the Philippines. What it does enable is the dissolution of common property and the obligations that come with marriage.

couple holding hands
                                                       Photo by Yana Tkachenko on Unsplash

Why the Philippines Needs a Divorce Law

While it is already difficult enough for a woman to leave an abusive husband, the lack of a divorce law in the Philippines makes it that much harder. Not only are these women left with no legal recourse, but they are also left without any financial support from their former partners. As we all know, women and children are the usual victims in cases of domestic violence, so it is imperative that the state provides a mechanism for these people to break free from an abusive relationship.

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In addition, many couples simply grow tired of each other and would like to go their separate ways. The lack of a divorce law not only creates animosity between the couple, but also their families and friends. This is especially true in a society where extended family plays a big role in people’s lives.

Lastly, the lack of a divorce law forces couples to go through an arduous annulment process, which can sometimes take years to complete and cost a lot of money. This is not only unfair to the couples involved, but also to their children who are left in limbo during the entire process.

While one can easily point to the alternatives to divorce, the key difference that distinguishes divorce from annulment is that divorce can be a quick and relatively affordable process, while annulment is neither of those things. That being said, what needs to change for the Philippines to finally have a divorce law?

Evalyn G. Ursua writes that the Catholic Church need not worry about the nation’s values completely going down the drain. The Filipino family, built upon the foundation of marriage, will endure on even with a divorce law in the country. What will change, however, is that the Filipino people will have the option to end a marriage that is no longer working, without having to go through a tedious and expensive annulment process.

Is Not Having a Divorce Law Something to Take Pride In?

In a way, the Philippines being the only country in the world (other than Vatican City) without a divorce law is a source of pride for many Filipinos — if that kind of uniqueness is something to be proud of. After all, it can serve as a testament to the strength of the Filipino family. However, one could also argue that it is something that needs to change, given the current state of affairs in the country.

What do you think? Should the Philippines have a divorce law? Let us know in the comments section below.

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