Gatchalian: Higher statutory rape age to help reinforce prohibition of child marriages

Gatchalian: Higher statutory rape age to help reinforce prohibition of child marriages

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — After the signing of Republic Act No. 11596
which criminalizes child marriages, Senator Win Gatchalian said that increasing
the statutory rape age will be a crucial next step in safeguarding Filipino
children from violence and abuse.

Last year, both houses of Congress ratified the bicameral
conference committee report on increasing the statutory rape age from 12 to 16.
For Gatchalian, one of the co-authors of the measure, the ban on child
marriages and the higher statutory rape age should deter predators from
committing what are considered gender-based violence and violation of human
rights.

“Kung maisasabatas sa lalong madaling panahon ang pagtaas
ng statutory rape age, mas mapapaigting natin ang mga hakbang upang tuluyang
masugpo ang mga child marriages sa ating bansa. Ang mga kabataan ay dapat
patuloy na nag-aaral at hindi nagpapakasal sa murang edad. Napapanahon nang
masugpo natin ang ganitong uri ng pang-aabuso at karahasan,” said Gatchalian,
chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

A child marriage is a marriage in which one or both of
the spouses are under 18 years old. Under the new law, unlawful acts include
the facilitation and solemnization of a child marriage, as well as cohabitation
of an adult with a child outside wedlock. According to the United Nations
International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Philippines ranks 12th in
the absolute number of child marriages globally.

Because of school closures, service disruptions, and
economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF also warned that 10
million more child marriages may occur worldwide before the end of the decade.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),
many adolescent brides are exposed to early and frequently repeated pregnancies
and childbirths. The 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) also
shows that 26.4% of married women aged 15-19 years old reported experiencing
physical, sexual or emotional violence.

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, Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM)
Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said last year. The POPCOM chief
added that this points to a degree of power play and seduction among girls aged
11 and 12.

POPCOM also reported that from 755 in 2000, 2,411 girls
considered as very young adolescents aged 10 to 14 gave birth in 2019, an

the equivalent of seven every day. (ai/mtvn)

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