There are only two countries in the world where divorce is illegal: the Philippines and the Vatican City.

But Filipino lawmakers are hoping to change that, and help protect women in the process.

On Monday, the Southeast Asian nation’s lower house of Congress passed a bill that would allow couples to divorce and remarry, Reuters reported. In order for divorce to officially be legal in the Philippines, the upper house Senate must draft and pass a similar bill.

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Filipino politicians and activists have campaigned for the law change for decades without success, but Congresswoman Emmi de Jesus told the BBC that the bill was proposed because of their efforts, because of the “clamour of women trapped in abusive relationships.”

Right now, the only way to end a marriage in the Philippines, a primarily Roman Catholic country, is to get an annulment. But annulments come with costly fees, do not require couples to divide their assets, and do not entitle women to child support. This makes it difficult for women, particularly those living in poverty, to leave even abusive marriages, unless they can afford to.

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While Monday’s bill is a major step in improving women’s rights and protecting women from abuse, the road ahead is unlikely to be a smooth one.

Read more: Why Not Being Able to Get Divorced Is a Women's Rights Issue in the Philippines

The bill passed with about 70% of the lower house of Congress’s votes, but faces opposition from President Rodrigo Duterte, the BBC reported, as well as religious groups. Last month, approximately 2,000 Catholic Filipinos protested the divorce bill in Manila, Channel News Asia reported.

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Global Citizen campaigns in support of gender equality and women’s rights. You can take action here to #LeveltheLaw and call on lawmakers to amend gender discriminatory policies to protect women.


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In a Win for Women, the Philippines May Finally Legalize Divorce

By Daniele Selby