Senate OKs bill raising age for determining statutory rape from 12 to 16
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to raise the age of sexual consent from the current 12 years old to 16 years old in a bid to provide more protection for young people against sexual exploitation and abuse.
Voting 22-0-1, senators approved Senate Bill No. 2332 or An Act Increasing the Age for Determining Statutory Rape and other Acts of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation to Protect Children.
The measure seeks to amend the Revised Penal Code and Republic Act No. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
Senator Richard Gordon, sponsor of the bill as chairman of the Senate justice and human rights committee, stressed 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 when he sponsored the bill in August.
“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.
This, as he noted that the Philippines has the lowest age of sexual consent in Asia and one of the lowest in the world.
Under the bill, both men and women could be charged with statutory rape. Gordon earlier said this provision will give equal protection to boys.
“The sexual orientation of the offender is of no importance as we find that perpetrators of sexual abuse against boys are given much lesser sentences than those found guilty of raping girls. The proposed law will address this issue by giving gender-neutral protection to children,” the senator said.
During the period of interpellation on the bill, senators debated over the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” clause that would exempt consensual sexual activity between young couples “in love” from being criminalized.
The original provision — also called the close-in-age exemption or the “sweetheart clause” — exempts “consensual, non-abusive and non-exploitative” sexual activity between young partners with an age difference of not more than four years from being considered as statutory rape.
But 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.
This exemption, however, shall not apply if the victim is aged 13 and below.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.