‘Glimpse of hope’: Child rights groups laud passage of law raising age of sexual consent

March 7, 2022 - 7:03 PM
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Several child rights groups welcomed the passage of the measure that raises the age of sexual consent in the country from 12 to 16 years old.

This law which amends the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 was strongly being lobbied by child rights groups and advocates since 2018.

READ: Online petition wants to raise age of determining statutory rape 

President Rodrigo Duterte on March 4 signed the law called Republic Act 116481, an act “providing for stronger protection against rape and sexual exploitation and abuse, increasing the age for determining the commission of statutory rape.”

READ: Duterte approves bill raising sex consent age from 12 to 16

Prior to this, the minimum age of sexual consent in the Philippines is 12 years old. This was considered to be among the lowest in Asia and among the lowest in the world.

Under the new law, the definition of rape is amended wherein it is committed by a person “who shall have carnal knowledge of another person.”

Among the circumstances stated is “when the offended party is under 16 years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present.”

It further stated the following conditions when there shall be no criminal liability on the offender:

  1. A person having carnal knowledge of another person is under 16 years old and the age difference between both parties is not more than three years
  2. Sexual act in question is proven to be consensual, non-abusive and non-exploitative

These conditions will not apply if “the victim is under 13 years of age.”

Several related acts were also amended under the same measure.

These include qualified seduction, child prostitution and other sexual abuse, as well as other acts of neglect, abuse, cruelty or exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development.

‘Glimpse of hope for children victims’

Child Rights Network Philippines and Save the Children Philippines, large child rights organizations that previously petitioned for this measure, thanked the lawmakers that made this sought-after call possible.

Salinlahi Philippines, a national alliance of child rights groups, described this passage as a “glimpse of hope for children victims.”

“The Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns welcomes the recent passage of a bill amending the Anti Rape Law which increases the age of sexual consent from 12 years old to 16 years old. It provides a glimpse of hope for children victims of horrendous and obnoxious crime and a step forward in achieving gender equality,” the alliance said.

Salinlahi then called on the government, both national and local, to educate the public that child rape is a heinous crime punishable by law.

It pointed out the importance of protecting children’s rights in line with the observance of International Working Women’s Day on March 8.

“As the world observes International Working Women’s Day on March 8, the Salinlahi urges the Duterte government and the next administration to possess a higher commitment and political will in upholding and protecting children’s rights,” the alliance said.

‘Milestone’

In July 2021, UNICEF Philippines called on Congress for the immediate passage of a law that raises the minimum age of determining statutory rape.

This call was backed by Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray and UNICEF ambassador Anne Curtis-Smith.

READ: ‘More than alarming’: Catriona Gray urges lawmakers to pass law raising age of sexual consent

Following the passage of the law, the UN agency lauded this as a “milestone” and fulfillment of protecting children’s rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which the Philippines is a signatory.

“UNICEF congratulates the Philippine Government for the legislative milestone which now increases the age for determining the commission of statutory rape from below 12 years to below 16 years. The landmark law, Republic Act 11648 signed on 4 March, fulfils children’s right to protection as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which the Philippines is a signatory,” UNICEF said.

The agency also hoped that the government would remain committed to implementing this law.

“Together with our partners such as the Child Rights Network (CRN) Philippines and all other child rights organizations and advocates in the country, we at UNICEF will remain steadfast in supporting all efforts of the Philippine Government, especially the key actors in the implementation of this Act, to ensure the stringent enactment of this new law as we continue our work towards the complete eradication of all forms of violence against children in the Philippines,” it said.