An alliance of children’s rights groups welcomed the passage of amendments to the Philippines’ anti-rape law, calling it a “glimpse of hope for children victims of rape and a step forward in achieving gender equality.”
The group Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, however, said “there’s still a long way to go in fully eliminating all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation” of women and children in the country.
The presidential palace released on Monday, March 7, the signed Republic Act (RA) No. 11648 or an “Act Providing for Stronger Protection Against Rape and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.”
The new law provides additional protection for minors against rape and other forms of sexual abuse, such as qualified seduction, child prostitution, child trafficking, and forceful hiring for obscene publications and indecent shows.
The new law amended Republic Act 8353 or the “Anti-Rape Law of 1997” and increased the age for determining the commission of statutory rape.
Prior to the passage of RA 11648, the Philippines had the lowest minimum age of sexual consent in Southeast Asia and one of the lowest in the world.
“The Philippine government should make the recently passed measures work for children by focusing on its proper implementation as well as guaranteeing higher conviction rates,” said Salinlahi in its statement.
The group also said that “flaws in our criminal justice system must be addressed and make it more accessible to children especially those coming from marginalized and poor communities.”
“Both local and national government should intensify its efforts to educate the public about the law as a way to effectively prevent the commission of child rape,” read the group’s statement.
“We must send a strong message that child rape is a heinous crime and that there is a law punishing it,” it added.
Salinlahi called on the government “to possess a higher commitment and political will in upholding and protecting children’s rights.”
Under the new law, minors engaging in sexual activity will be exempted from criminal liability as long as their age difference is not more than three years.
The sexual act should also be proven to be “consensual, non-abusive, and non-exploitative.”
The new law also amends a provision under RA 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.”
“Children, whether male or female, who for money, profit, or any other consideration or due to the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group, indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in prostitution or other sexual abuse,” read the amendment.