MANILA, Aug 4 (Mabuhay) — The Child Rights Network (CRN) on Tuesday prodded the Senate anew to increase the age for determining statutory rape from the current 12 to at least 16 years old, the international standard.

The proposal is the salient feature of Senate Bill No. 2332 on Increasing the Age of Statutory Rape, also known as End Child Rape bill.

The measure also proposes to remove the “marriage as forgiveness” clause to those who are proven guilty and provides equal protection to boys and girls.

CRN has been asking lawmakers to hasten the passage of the bill as it will address the loopholes found in Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, which defines rape as an act of sexual assault by any person either by “inserting his penis into another person’s mouth or anal orifice” or inserting “any instrument or object, into the genital or anal orifice of another person”.

“Under our law, sexual intercourse with a child as young as 12 is not automatically considered as child rape. We have seen numerous cases of children recounting in court their experiences of abuse in the hands of sexual predators because they still have to prove the absence of consent,” CRN convenor Romeo Dongeto said in a statement.

For statutory rape, the child only needs to prove two things: age and that the sexual act happened.

Dongeto said children who have been “groomed” by their rapists would often choose to remain silent rather than speak against their abusers in court.

“In some court transcripts secured by CRN, child rape victims get asked if they enjoyed the abuse, even in cases of incest. The current law facilitates legalized victim-blaming. It is unsurprising why many victims would rather stay silent than relive the trauma,” he added.

A study by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund showed sexual violence results in severe physical, psychological, and social harm.

“Victims experience an increased risk of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and other sexually transmitted infections, pain, illness, unwanted pregnancy, social isolation, and psychological trauma. Some victims may resort to risky behaviors like substance abuse to cope with trauma. And as child victims reach adulthood, sexual violence can reduce their ability to care for themselves and others,” a study indicated.

The House of Representatives has already passed on final reading its version of the End Child Rape bill in December 2020 while the Senate has yet to commence plenary proceedings.

The bill hurdled the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, in October last year.

“Keeping 12 as the age of consent endangers children and makes them more vulnerable to sexual abuse. The Congress must uphold the right of every child to freedom from sexual exploitation that’s why we introduce Senate Bill No. 2332,” he said in a statement on Monday.

Gordon said the Philippines has the lowest age of sexual consent in Asia and one of the lowest in the world.

“The rape statistics in our country that involved children also remain troubling, so, we strongly support the increase of the age of sexual consent as thousands of children are robbed of their youth,” he added.(MNS)

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