Press Release
October 1, 2020

Hontiveros: Amid pregnancy epidemic, raise age of sexual consent immediately to give girls 'a fighting chance for good life'

"Right now a 13 year old girl can be forced to have sex with her uncle, and she will need to prove that she did not consent. Our laws should protect the most innocent; but we've thrown thousands of Filipino girls to the wolves."

This according to Senator Risa Hontiveros as she urged the Senate during the Committee on Justice hearing on sexual consent to fast track the passage of Senate Bill no. 163 or the Raising the Age of Sexual Consent bill she filed during the 18th Congress amid the 'soaring increase of teen pregnancies in the country'.

"Habang tumatagal ang pandemya na ito, nanganganak pa siya ng mas maraming krisis. We are experiencing a teen pregnancy emergency, and it's the Filipino girls of today who will head the families of tomorrow that will pay the heftiest price. Raising the age of consent is an urgent intervention," she said.

Senate Bill no. 163 seeks to increase the age of sexual consent from 12 to 18 years old to conform with the current legal age in the country All sexual acts with minors will be treated as statutory rape, subject to the close-in-age exemption, in which sexual acts between consenting minors are exempted from the law.

Hontiveros cited data from the Center of Women's Resources that 7 of 10 victims of rape are children. "Every 53 minutes, a woman or child gets raped, and their perpetrators get away with the crime because of a lapse in the law that can and must immediately be corrected, " she said.

During a hearing earlier chaired by Hontiveros, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said the numbers of unintended pregnancies, which reached 760,000 during the quarantine, were an 'epidemic in and of itself'. "Lulubog pa ang bansa sa kahirapan socially, economically and health-wise. No one wins if we let these crises proliferate," she added.

Hontiveros said her office 'constantly receives countless reports of online sexual exploitation of children'. "We've remained the hotspot for sexual violence. Gaano kadaming batang Pilipino ang pinanganak at nanganganak dahil sa karahasan? Lalo na sa gitna ng pandemya, ang dami nating blind spots sa datos. It is crucial that agencies disaggregate the data so we can appropriately implement policies and protect as many as we can," she said.

She highlighted data from the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) that 40 to 50 girls below the age of 14 give birth every week. "These girls become biologically and economically burdened with a task they are not ready for in any way whatsoever. Not only are the physical and mental health risks heightened, but so are the financial. The teen pregnancy emergency will widen the gaps of inequality and poverty exponentially," she said.

The fund allocated in the 2021 proposed national budget for the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Hontiveros added, is almost 50% lower than requested 'without adjustment to the increase violence against women during the pandemic'. "New data shows that pandemics and economic stress on families puts girls at greater risk for violence. Let's give the agencies what they need to address these rising issues. Sa gitna ng mga krisis na ito, kailangan full force ang mga batas at programa natin," she said.

"As a mother to 3 daughters, I take this personally, as we all should. We have become a hotspot for all sorts of violence. We have to give all our girls a fighting chance for a good life, if not the consequences of our inaction will be felt for generations. Ipasa na natin itong batas, at wag natin to patagalin pa," Hontiveros concluded.

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