Child rights advocates in the Philippines said they see a “beacon of hope” in the passage of the “End Child Rape” law in the country.
They said it “serves as a much-needed beacon of light amid the darkness that was inflicted by the two years of the pandemic.”
The Child Rights Network (CRN), the largest alliance of organizations calling for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines, welcomed the new law that increases the age for determining the commission of statutory rape from below 12 to below 16 years old.
“This development means that an adult engaging in sexual activity with a minor below 16 – the new age of sexual consent – will automatically be guilty of rape,” the group said in a statement.
The said the law “is the product of the genuine collaboration and unwavering efforts of legislators, policymakers, victim-survivors, young people, civil society advocates, child protection lawyers, social workers, and other practitioners throughout the country.”
“Despite everything that’s been transpiring in the past months, our legislators worked tirelessly and selflessly to ensure the safety and well-being of the Filipino children from sexual violence through this measure,” said Romeo Dongeto, CRN convenor.
CRN launched the #ENDChildRape campaign, which seeks to raise the age to determine statutory rape, through a nationwide caravan in 2018 that started in Davao City in the southern Philippines.
Since its launch, the campaign has amassed more than 317,000 petition signatures on Change.Org.
CRN said the new law amends the “archaic provisions” of the Revised Penal Code and introduced “important provisions,” such as the increase the age to determine statutory rape from below 12 to below 16 years old; equalize the protection for victims of rape, whether a boy or a girl; and
adopt the “close in age exemption,” which serves to reduce or eliminate the penalty of the crime in cases where the couple’s age difference is minor.
“This is a victory for the Filipino children,” said Dongeto, adding that “the road to ending child rape begins today.”
“We encourage everyone to unite in the common goal of ending child rape in the country. Everyone has a part in fully implementing the new law,” he said.
On Monday, the group Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns 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.”