On Monday, September 27, the Senate passed the bill raising the minimum age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 years old. This is to further protect children and young people from statutory rape and any forms of sexual abuse.
Voting 22-0-1, senators approved Senate Bill (SB) No. 2332 or An Act Increasing the Age for Determining Statutory Rape and other Acts of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation to Protect Children on third and final reading.
Children’s rights groups lauded the move as the Philippines has the lowest age of sexual consent in Asia and one of the lowest in the world. Here are 3 things you should know about this bill. (Read: Women’s Rights Around the World: How Far Have We Really Come?)
It doesn’t only apply to women
The bill seeks to amend the Republic Act (RA) 3815 or the Revised Penal Code and RA 7610, also known as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. It also changed the definition of rape, emphasizing that anyone, regardless of gender, can commit a heinous crime.
While women are the most vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse, any gender can be a victim. Under the bill, both men and women engaging in sexual contact with anyone 16 years old or lower could be charged with statutory rape. The sexual orientation of the offender will not become a barrier, even if it is the same sex.
‘Romeo and Juliet’ clause
The bill also has a “Romeo and Juliet” clause, which recognizes “consensual” sexual activity between young couples aged 16 years old and below with an age difference of not more than three years, if proven.
During earlier deliberations, Senator Risa Hontiveros, the principal author of the bill, said there should be no criminal liability on the part of the perpetrator if the victim is between 14 and 18 years of age. (Read: 4 Children’s Books That Inspire and Empower Little Girls)
“The age difference between the perpetrator and victim is not more than four years, and the sexual act in question is proven to be consensual, non-exploitative, and non-abusive,” she added.
However, the exemption would not apply if the victim is aged 13 years old and below. The senators reiterated that the bill targets adults who sexually prey on children or minors.
It will provide stronger protection for children
In a 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, it is stated that one in every five children in the Philippines in the age group of 13 to 17 said they experienced sexual violence, while one in 25 suffered from forced consummated sex during childhood.
Raising the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 years old is a huge step in protecting children’s rights. It also prevents them from psychological trauma, unwanted pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and such. (Read: UNICEF Releases Film and Book to Help Kids Cope Amid Pandemic)
“Our children would be made to testify in court, recall traumatic events, just to prove the crime of rape. The pain of remembering alone has scarred many Filipino kids. The lifelong psychological and emotional injury inflicted upon them is a cruelty we should no longer allow. Today, the Senate has finally and clearly said no to child rape,” Hontiveros underscored.