Senators passed the bill that would consider it as a rape if an adult makes sexual contact with a minor 16 years old and below.
This means the bill raising the age of sexual consent in the Philippines is one step closer to becoming law, as the House of Representatives passed their own version in December 2020.
Both chambers will now be convening a bicameral conference committee to settle conflicting provisions in both versions. The reconciled bill will then be sent to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
The current minimum age of sexual consent in the Philippines is 12 years old, the lowest in Southeast Asia and one of the lowest in the world.
But if SB 2332 is passed into law, any adult who engages in sexual activity with a minor aged below 16 would be automatically guilty of rape – regardless if the minor gave his or her consent.
The measure would make this possible by introducing amendments to Republic Act (RA) No. 3815 or the Revised Penal Code and RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act.
The Senate bill has a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” clause, which would exempt consensual sexual activity between young couples aged 16 years and below, with an age difference of not more than three years.
The exemption, however, would not apply if the victim is 13 years old and below.
Senator Richard Gordon, who sponsored the bill as chair of the committee on justice and human rights, said it is about time the age of sexual consent is raised in the country.
“Keeping 12 as the age of consent endangers children and makes them more vulnerable to sexual abuse. Congress must uphold the right of every child to freedom from sexual exploitation,” Gordon said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros also called SB 2332’s passage a “victory” for children and advocates championing their rights.
“Our current law allows adults to have sex with children who are as young as 12 years old. 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 said. – Rappler.com