When Neriza Caspe said goodbye to her four children in the Philippines 18 years ago, she didn’t know how long she’d be gone — just that she wanted to work abroad to better provide for them, and escape her abusive husband.
Caspe lives in New York City now and hasn’t spoken to him in 10 years. She considers herself separated. But she can’t cut ties with him completely because the Philippines is one of two places in the world that doesn’t allow divorce. (The other is Vatican City, home of the pope.) The only option to end a marriage in the predominantly Catholic nation is annulment, a costly process that requires proof that the marriage was a fraud, a spouse suffers from psychological incapacity or other, specific, rare circumstances.
If Caspe returns to the Philippines, her husband will be entitled to any property she buys and she’ll have to use her married name.
“I’m a single woman, but I’m not free,” she says.
Now, a bill to legalize divorce is giving her hope. The Philippines’ House of Representatives passed it in a historic vote in March, though the Senate and President Rodrigo Duterte must still give it the green light before it can become law. Caspe says its passage would finally allow her to move on.