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The Philippines is finally considering legalizing divorce. The archipelago, where the Catholic Church has a strong authority, is the only country outside the Vatican where divorce is illegal. But according to a New York Times reporter who went to meet women "caught in the middle", things are starting to change. A law may soon be passed.

About fifteen years ago, a woman named Mary Nepomuceno separated from her husband. But she was never able to formalize the separation because in her home country, the Philippines, it is forbidden to remarry after a divorce and start over with a clean slate.

Like her, thousands of Filipinos find themselves trapped in marriages that have long since collapsed. This is because their country (along with the Vatican) is the only one where divorce is still illegal.

Spouses who decide to separate, for example, after domestic violence or due to mood incompatibility, live very different lives. Staggering legal fees and mountains of paperwork make it almost impossible for many to annul a civil marriage.

But public opinion is changing in this nearly 80 percent Catholic country. According to various polls, one in two Filipinos is now in favor of legalizing divorce. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself says he is open to the idea and that his country has never been closer to this initiative.

But the problem is far from solved. While the country's powerful Catholic Church condemns "irrational activism", conservative parliamentarians remain firmly committed to their position. In reaction, some advocates today recognize divorce as a fundamental human right, just like access to care and education. Mary Nepomuceno, 54, says: "It's like medicine. We only get it when we are sick, but that is no reason to deprive those who need it the rest of the time," says Mary Nepomuceno, 54.

STATISTICS AS A WEAPON OF PERSUASION

Whereas 'Prodivorce' activists once relied on personal testimony to win the sympathy of parliamentarians, today they use science and statistics to denounce the long-term repercussions of the divorce ban on millions of women victims of domestic violence.

"Before, we used to let our tears and anger run free," recalls A. J. Alfafara, founder of the Philippine Divorce Coalition, which brings together more than 500,000 members.