SWP nudges Congress to pass bill raising the age for statutory rape
SOCIALWATCH PHILS·OCTOBER 19, 2020
In observance of the International Day of the Girl Child, the Social Watch Philippines (SWP) is urging Congress to hasten the passage of the bill raising the age for statutory rape to 16, which was initially approved in August 27 by the House Committees on Revision of Laws and Welfare of Children.
“While it will not completely address the challenges in protecting the children from a myriad of abuses such as online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC), amending the anti-rape law is a good start, as those belonging to age 13-15 are still vulnerable and need protection,” the SWP said.
Under the 1997 Anti-Rape Law, a sexual intercourse is considered statutory rape if the victim is under 12 years old which is lowest in Southeast Asia. It criminalizes sex with minors under age 18 but only if there is no consent or if the act involves force or intimidation.
The SWP notes that the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act or Republic Act 7610 defines children as “persons below eighteen (18) years of age or those over but are unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition”.
The proposed bill also seeks to amend the definition of rape to include acts of perversion for sexual gratification, and criminal liability will remain even with forgiveness or eventual marriage between the rapist and the victim. Grooming, a tactic being used by perpetrators to psychologically prepare the minor as a prelude to sexual abuse is included as a new element of rape. It will not also allow amicable settlement or affidavits of desistance at any stage of the proceedings.
“Aside from the non-responsive old anti-rape law, the OSAEC should be addressed also by providing enough budget for child protection,” according to the SWP, citing a study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that one in 5 Filipino children are vulnerable to online sexual abuse.
The public development budget watchdog has earlier appealed to Congress to approve the 2021 Tier 2 budget for the Child Protection Program of the Department of Education (DepEd), which include a budget for protecting children against online sexual exploitation.
The SWP also notes with dismay that under the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) for 2019, “traffickers, who are often the victims’ parents or close relatives, induce young Filipino girls and boys to perform sex acts for live internet broadcast to paying foreigners in other countries.”
Despite being a Tier 1 of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report since 2016 including last year, which means the country meets the minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking, the problem of sexual trafficking in children remains rampant in the Philippines.
The UNICEF listed down several factors that allow for easy proliferation of OSAEC in the Philippines which include: poverty and resorting to OSAEC as a form of income; cheap internet and smartphones; ability to speak English well; availability of money remittance centers; prevailing norms of secrecy; lack of parental supervision, sometimes caused by parents having to work abroad; and lack of resources to investigate and prosecute perpetrators, and rescue and rehabilitate victims.
“The vulnerability of children to sexual predation, be it online or otherwise, is a heartbreaking reality that needs to be tackled head on by providing enough budget for child protection,” the SWP concluded. ##
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Social Watch Philippines (SWP), is a network of a hundred civil society organizations advocating for transparent, efficient, accountable and pro-poor use of public funds.
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