Women’s group calls on Senate to hasten approval of bill changing age of consent to 16

WOMEN’S ORGANIZATION Gabriela Philippines called on the Senate to “act double time” in approving the bill that will adjust the age of consent to 16 years old from the current 12.

Gabriela Secretary General Joms Salvador said the proposed revision to the country’s law on statutory rape and sexual violence will strengthen child protection.

“It is often more difficult to handle cases where a child is involved, because you know that often children are more psychologically and mentally fragile compared to adults,” Ms. Salvador told BusinessWorld on Saturday.

“Often the child would be conflicted, blame themselves, or even retreat from reality as it would be very difficult for them to face their perpetrator or the taxing process of reliving their experience before the court,” she added.

The measure, contained in Senate Bill No. 2332, was sponsored last Wednesday by Senator Richard J. Gordon, Sr., chair of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri.

Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, chair of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, said at the plenary session that there have been cases where minors were asked to prove in court that “they did not consent to the sexual act, with some even being asked if they enjoyed it. As a result, many victims opt to stay silent.”

“Our age of sexual consent is the lowest threshold in the world,” said Ms. Hontiveros in a statement. “Our current policies make this heinous crime permissible. When justice is sought out, our current law bars it from being served. Little can be done because the law stands in the way.”

From March to Nov. 2020, there were 13,923 reported cases of violence against women and their children, according to the Philippine Commission on Women. Of these, children were the victims in 4,747 cases.

The counterpart bill at the House of Representatives was passed in December last year. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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