By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Win Gatchalian hailed the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on a measure that increases the statutory rape age to 16, calling it a big leap forward in upholding the rights of Filipino children.
The bicameral conference committee report resolved differences between House Bill No. 7836 and Senate Bill No. 2332. Gatchalian is one of the authors of the bill that seeks to increase the age for determining statutory rape. The current age of sexual consent in the Philippines is 12, the lowest in Asia and one of the lowest in the world.
Gatchalian reiterated that increasing the statutory rape age will be crucial in curbing teenage pregnancies nationwide, noting that many young mothers are victims of sexual violence.
Earlier this year, Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said that based on the 2019 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), two out of three adolescents who got pregnant have partners who are older by 20 years. The POPCOM chief added that this points to a degree of power play and seduction among girls aged 11 and 12.
POPCOM reported this year that the number of girls aged 15 and below who gave birth increased by seven percent from 2018 to 2019. From 62,341 in 2018, the number of minors who gave birth in 2019 rose to 62,510. POPCOM also reported that in 2019, 2,411 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth, an equivalent of seven per day. This is triple the number recorded in 2000 when 755 girls from the same age group gave birth.
The POPCOM has also warned that teenage pregnancies will likely surge because of COVID-related lockdown measures.
“Napapanahon nang isabatas natin ang panukalang itaas ang statutory rape age upang mabigyan ng proteksyon ang ating mga kabataan mula sa karahasan at pang-aabuso. Hindi na natin dapat palampasin ang ganitong uri ng karahasan sa ating mga kabataan,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
The reconciled version of the measure adopts the Senate’s “sweetheart provision,” which would not penalize consensual sexual activity between young couples in love. (ai/mtvn)