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STATEMENT | Child Rights Network – Children at the Heart of the Law

 

 

TOGETHER with more than 300,000 individuals who signed our online petition to raise the age to determine statutory rape in the Philippines, Child Rights Network is once again calling on our Senators to prioritize the passage of Senate Bill 2332 or the “Increasing the Age of Statutory Rape” Bill, more popularly known as the End Child Rape Bill.

 Statutory rape is a crime that involves sexual contact with a child below the age of sexual consent. Under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, and as maintained by the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, the crime of statutory rape only covers children below the age of 12.

We cannot emphasize enough: 12 is too low to determine the crime of statutory rape. Imagine implementing a 91-year-old statute up until now – to the great detriment of our children. The Philippines remains to have the lowest age of sexual consent in Asia and one of the lowest in the world.

While we recognize the efforts of our dear Senators – eight of whom filed various versions of the End Child Rape Bill – time is indeed running out. Acting on this bill now may be our only chance to pass this landmark legislation. In a few months, the whole nation will undoubtedly shift its focus on the upcoming elections. 

We appeal to our Senators to join their colleagues in the House of Representatives who already passed on third and final reading their version of the bill – House Bill 7836 – back in December 2020. If passed into law, this piece of legislation will immediately leave a lasting positive impact on the lives of Filipino children.

The End Child Rape Bill contains the following salient provisions:

It expands the coverage of the crime of statutory rape from below 12 to below 16 years old, thus protecting more children from the harrowing experience of testifying in court how they were raped, a traumatic experience causing revictimization. For statutory rape, only two things need to be proved: the child’s age and that the sexual act happened.

  1. Until now, rape against boys is only considered “rape by sexual assault,” which carries a lesser sentence of 6 to 12 years, while rape against girls is penalized with a life sentence. The End Child Rape Bill amends this by providing equal protection for boys and girls.
  2. The End Child Rape Bill adopts a “close-in-age exemption” to avoid criminalizing adolescents of similar ages for engaging in factually non-abusive and non-exploitative sexual activity.
  3. The End Child Rape Bill removes the “marriage as forgiveness” exemption, where the rapist is freed of legal responsibility if the rapist marries the victim.

The fullest weight of the law must be used to protect children from rape and its traumatizing consequences. But how can we protect children if the current law is insufficient?

Every day that the End Child Rape Bill remains pending is another day for predators and perpetrators to take advantage of children while hiding behind the excuse that the sexual act was consensual. The low age to determine statutory rape enables rapists of children to simply get away with their crime and possibly even repeating such heinous acts to other children.

In the time of the pandemic, which entailed not only travel and mobility restrictions but also various socioeconomic hardships, children have become more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. Leaving the Philippine age of consent pegged at 12 years only makes matters worse.

We earnestly hope that before the next celebration of World Children’s Day on November 20, the 18th Congress will already have the bill for the President’s signature. Maximum protection is the best gift that our lawmakers can give to Filipino children.

To our dear Senators: the clock is indeed ticking and the passage of a law that can protect an innocent child from the life-long trauma that rape brings rests in your hands. 

Child Rights Network

Child Rights Network is the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines. www.childrightsnetwork.ph

 

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