The Senate of the Philippines approved a bill that raises the country’s age of sexual consent from 12 to 16, bringing efforts to end one of the world’s lowest ages of consent closer to reality.
Why this matters: To date, the Philippines has the lowest age of consent in all of Asia. Southeast Asia, where the archipelago is located, has particularly been a hub for child predators for years, and the onset of COVID-19 has only worsened fears of increased cybersex trafficking involving minors in the region.
- Senate Bill (SB) No. 2332, which the Senate passed on Sept. 27, is a consolidated version of multiple bills authored by various senators. If passed into law, any adult who engages in sexual activity with a child below 16 will be guilty of statutory rape, even if the latter consented to the act.
- The bill has a “Romeo and Juliet” clause that decriminalizes consensual sexual activity between partners who are both 16 and below, with an age difference of not more than three years. However, the clause does not apply if one person is 13 or below.
What proponents are saying: The bill passed with 22 affirmative votes and one abstention. Proponents said it is long overdue and welcomed its passing as a victory for children.
- “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,” said Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon, who sponsored the bill as chair of the committee on justice and human rights.
- Sen. Risa Hontiveros marked the bill’s passing as the day the Senate “finally and clearly said no to child rape.” “The lifelong psychological and emotional injury inflicted upon them is a cruelty we should no longer allow,” she said.
What’s next: The House of Representatives passed their own version of the bill in December 2020. A bicameral conference committee will now convene to settle conflicts between the bills and produce a reconciled version, which will then be sent to President Rodrigo Duterte’s office for his signature and enactment.