Raising the Age of Consent in the Philippines and the Hope for More
The Philippines has raised the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16. It was the lowest age of consent in Southeast Asia, one of the lowest in the world. People of the Philippines, along with Senator Risa Hontiveros in the Congress and NGOs such as Plan International and Save the Children, had been working together to make this happen for years. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed the bill on March 4, 2022, after the bill passed the Senate and the House in December 2021.
The importance of age of sexual consent
The minimum age of sexual consent is the age where a person is considered capable of consenting to sexual activities. This law is a preventive measure against sexual abuse on children and the mental and physical issues that might follow early sexual activities. These issues include trauma, unwanted pregnancy, cut-off education, and more.
A call for prioritizing the passage of the End Child Rape Bill was addressed to the Philippines Congress in 2021. A 2015 study about child violence discovered that “one in every five children in the Philippines (19.1%) aged 13-17 years old reported experiencing sexual violence”. Raising the bar from 12 to 16 was one of the suggested preventive measures by the UN.
What does the law say?
The new law defines statutory rape as sexual activities done with someone under 16. There will be an exemption if the age gap does not exceed three years and the act is proven to be consensual, non-abusive, and non-exploitative. The exemption, however, does not apply if the victim is below 13.
Under this framework, adults who seduce minors shall be imprisoned. A minor is defined as someone over 16 but under 18. Heavier punishment will be given to a person who seduces their family members regardless of age.
Finally, this law also mandates the Department of Education to include the topic of children’s protection and rights in the curriculum.
The next step for the Philippines
Raising the age of sexual consent is another milestone for the Phillippines following the Prohibition of Child Marriage Law that passed in January this year. This law prohibits marriage when one or both parties are below 18, in both religious and cultural settings. Similar to the End Child Rape Law, this law aims to protect children, especially young girls, from the consequences of early marriage.
Meanwhile, the appeal to decriminalize Adultery and Concubinage, the Legalization of Divorce Bill, and the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill are still in progress. The passing of the End Child Rape Law after decades of struggle opens wider possibilities for the passage of more regulations protecting women, children, and other vulnerable groups in the Philippines.
Editor: Nazalea Kusuma
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Madina is an In-House Reporter & Researcher at Green Network Asia. She covers Global, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Australasia.