Press Release
September 27, 2021

Senate approves bill raising statutory age of rape from 12 to 16

The Senate passed on third and final reading a bill which seeks to raise the age of sexual consent from the current 12 to 16 years old in a bid to protect young people from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.

With 22 affirmative votes, no negative vote and one abstention, the Senate approved Senate Bill (SB) 2332, or An Act Increasing the Age for Determining Statutory Rape and other Acts of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation to Protect Children.

The bill seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) 3815, or the Revised Penal Code, and RA 7610, also known as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, underscored the need for an urgent response to child sexual abuse and exploitation in the country.

"Rape is a very violent crime, especially when performed against a minor. It is important that we amend the old law which clearly states that it applies to certain individuals, for women, for example, and not for men or for gay personalities," he said in his sponsorship speech.

"That's why we're having a legislative reform on rape, especially for the protection of our girls and boys, and others with different sexual preference from sexual violence," he added.

According to him, the country's rape that involving "remains troubling, so, we strongly support the increase of age of sexual consent as thousands of children are robbed of their youth."

"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," he explained.

Under the bill, both men and women could be charged with statutory rape, and that the sexual orientation of the offender is not important. Gordon said the crime of rape is committed if the victim and the offender are of the same sex.

He cited that the Philippines has the lowest age of sexual consent in Asia and one of the lowest in the world.

In a 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, one in every five children in the Philippines in the age group of 13 to 17 said they experienced sexual violence while one in 25 suffered from forced consummated sex during childhood.

Earlier, United Nations (UN) Philippines called on Congress to prioritize the measure increasing the age for determining the commission of statutory rape to below 16 years old from the current below 12 years old.

During the period of interpellation on the bill, senators debated on the so-called "Romeo and Juliet" clause that would recognize "consensual" sexual activity between young couples if proven.

Senators later agreed that the exemption from criminal liability shall cover partners 16 year old and below, with age difference of not more than three years, but shall not apply if the victim is aged 13 and below.

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