UNICEF statement on the approval of bill increasing the age for statutory rape
MANILA, 11 September 2020 – UNICEF fully supports the approval of the House Committees on Revision of Laws and Welfare of Children of the bill that increases the age to determine statutory rape in the Philippines from below 12 to below 16.
As the UN agency for children’s rights, UNICEF extends its congratulations to the leaders and members of the two House Committees and lauds the Child Rights Network, as well as government partners, for their unwavering efforts in seeing this bill through.
UNICEF has been very vocal about the alarmingly low age of sexual consent in the Philippines and supported, through its partnership with the Child Rights Network, the formulation of the bill and policy brief, production of information materials and mobilization of regional caravans, and an online petition campaign. Prior to the approval of the bill, the age to determine statutory rape in the country was the lowest in Asia and one of the lowest in the world at 12, only bested by Niger at age 11.
The first National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children conducted in 2015, which was led by the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) in cooperation with UNICEF, the Child Protection Network, the Consuelo Alger-Zobel Foundation, and the University of the Philippines Manila revealed that one in every five children (17.1%) aged 13-17 years old experienced sexual violence, while 124 (one in 25 or 3.2%) of all respondents experienced forced consummated sex during childhood. The study also revealed that the perpetrators are often family members and that more boys (65.2%) than girls (60.4%) reported experiencing sexual violence.
Prodded by the findings and extensive consultations with key stakeholders, UNICEF advocated for more holistic, non-discriminatory, protective, and responsive measures that include:
- Increasing the age to determine statutory rape from below 12 to below 16
- Equalizing the protection for victims of rape, whether a boy or a girl
- Adopting the “close in age exemption,” which serves to reduce or eliminate the penalty of the crime in cases where the couple's age difference is minor
- Removal of marriage as forgiveness exemption where the perpetrator is freed of legal responsibility if the perpetrator marries the person he raped.
While this is crucial development is acknowledged and appreciated, UNICEF calls for both chambers of the Philippine Congress to immediately pass this bill into law. UNICEF also urges the public to monitor and advocate for the promulgation of this bill to ensure that the appropriate protection against sexual violence will be prioritized and gifted to every child in the Philippines.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph.