Child rights advocates have pressed Congress to pass swiftly three proposed legislations that would address comprehensively and effectively the sexual abuse aspect of the alarming problem of teenage pregnancy in the country.
The Child Rights Network (CRN) and the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) identified the proposed legislations as those on “Anti-Child Rape Bill,” “Prohibition of Child Marriage” and the “Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.”
The two non-governmental organizations said that last Dec. 1, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 7836 which provides for stronger protection against rape, sexual exploitation, and abuse and increasing the age for determining the commission of statutory rape from below 12 to below 16 years.
They said HB 7836 “contains potent provisions which 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, and the removal of marriage as forgiveness exemption where the perpetrator is freed of legal responsibility if the perpetrator marries the person he raped.”
The Senate, they said, has already passed on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 1373 or the Prohibition of Child Marriage Bill, “which aims to provide equal protection for all children by declaring the facilitation of child marriage as illegal and punishable by law nationwide, and by introducing socioeconomic and culture-sensitive programs that create an enabling environment that can help foster protection for girls against child marriage.”
The counterpart bills in the House of Representatives include House Bill 1486 filed by Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy and Rep. Edcel Lagman, House Bill 3899 filed by Rep. Alfred Vargas, House Bill 5670 filed by Rep. Veronique Lacson-Noel, and House Bill 7922 by Rep. Joy Tambunting.
Also in the Senate, CRN and PLCPD said Senate Bill No. 1334 on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, primarily authored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, “seeks to develop a national program of action and investment plan for the prevention of teenage pregnancy, and the organization and mobilization of regional and local information service delivery network for adolescent health and development.”
They said that SB 1334 also seeks “the development and promotion of age and development-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, the establishment of functional local teen centers for adolescent health and development, and social protection for teenage mothers or parents.”
“The passage of these three proposed laws, alongside the stronger and wider implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law and related statutes, will holistically address the emerging national emergency of teenage pregnancy,” the groups stressed.
Their call for the immediate passage of the three legislations was due to the announcement by the Commission on Population on the rising incidents of teenage pregnancy which can now be considered a national emergency, they said.
They pointed out that the commission’s announcement was based on “results of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll on Women Concerns and Family Planning which revealed that nearly 60 percent of Filipinos think that teenage pregnancy is the most important problem of Filipino women.”
Citing data, the two groups said that “the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that 62,510 children gave birth in 2019 and in the same year, seven girls aged 10-14 years gave birth each day, with a total of 2,411 births that year.”
They said that “PSA data also revealed that underaged mothers are generally sired by older men, with childbirth registration records in 2018 showing that children as young as 10 years old were sired by older men aged more than 60 years.”
“These figures should sound the legislative alarms and press Congress to swiftly address the roots of why children are having children, including the sexual abuse dimension. Immediate action is needed, as we fear that we are currently in a worse situation, as the COVID-19 (corona virus disease 2019) pandemic has certainly compounded the issue,” they stressed.