Home Society & Culture Divorce Laws in the Philippines Harm Mental Health, According to New Study

Divorce Laws in the Philippines Harm Mental Health, According to New Study

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A new study has recently highlighted the significant implications of the Philippines’ restrictive divorce laws on the mental health of its citizens. Published in The Lancet Psychiatry, the research sheds light on how the inability to dissolve marriages legally affects individuals’ psychological well-being, particularly for women in abusive relationships.

The Philippine constitution aims to uphold women’s rights and equality, with several laws safeguarding against violence and discrimination. Despite these advancements, the Philippines remains one of only two countries, alongside Vatican City, where divorce is illegal. For non-Muslim Filipinos, annulment is the only legal recourse, which is often costly, lengthy, and complicated. The restrictive nature of these laws has profound implications for gender equality and mental health.

The study underscores the severe mental health repercussions for individuals trapped in marriages due to the country’s stringent laws. Women, in particular, suffer from elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues due to their inability to escape abusive relationships. The Philippine Commission on Women reported that 17.5% of Filipino women aged 15–49 have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from their partners. The Covid pandemic exacerbated this situation, with increased reports of domestic violence leading to adverse mental health outcomes.

Annulment, the sole legal method for marriage dissolution available to non-Muslim Filipinos, presents numerous challenges. It is not only expensive but also requires proof of psychological incapacity, a criterion that does not necessarily align with diagnosable psychiatric disorders. This legal framework often forces individuals to stay in unhealthy and potentially dangerous marriages, as abuse and infidelity are not considered valid grounds for annulment.

The predominantly Catholic nation faces substantial resistance to changing marital laws due to deep-rooted religious and cultural beliefs. Efforts to introduce divorce legislation have been met with significant opposition, hindering progress and perpetuating the cycle of mental distress among those unable to legally separate from their spouses.

The authors of the study advocate for urgent judicial reforms to address these issues. They recommend legalising divorce and simplifying the annulment process to make it more accessible, particularly for victims of intimate partner abuse. Such changes would not only improve mental health outcomes but also promote gender equality and personal autonomy.

Mental health professionals play a crucial role in this advocacy. By educating policymakers and the public about the mental health implications of restrictive marital laws, they can help drive the necessary legal reforms. The study emphasises the importance of integrating mental health assessments into the judicial process to ensure fair and just treatment of individuals seeking marriage dissolution.

The inability to dissolve marriages legally in the Philippines has far-reaching implications beyond individual mental health. It affects children’s well-being, as they are often caught in the crossfire of parental conflicts. Children from subsequent relationships face the stigma of illegitimacy, compounding the psychological and social challenges they endure. Legal reforms that allow for divorce would provide a more supportive and protective environment for these children, ensuring their rights and welfare are safeguarded.

© Copyright 2014–2034 Psychreg Ltd