The Child Rights Network (CRN) has urged the Senate to expedite the passage of the bill that would change the age for statutory rape from below 12 to below 16 years.
Senate Bill No. 2332 on “Increasing the Age of Statutory Rape” and known as “End Child Rape Bill,” also proposed the removal of “marriage as forgiveness” for those who commit the crime.
CRN, the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights, said the proposed legislation will address the loopholes found in Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code as maintained by the Anti-Rape Law of 1997.
In the Philippines, statutory rape is a crime that involves sexual contact with a person below the age of sexual consent. However, statutory rape only covers children below 12 years old — a provision has not been changed for over 90 years.
CRN said that rapists have been taking advantage of this loophole in the country’s laws with their claim that sex with children as young as 12 years old is consensual.
Sadly, one of the consequences of having an incredibly low age to determine statutory rape is letting rape victims get “retraumatized” especially when they have to prove in court that they were indeed raped, it said.
CRN Convenor Romeo Dongeto said that children who have been “groomed” by their rapists would often choose to remain silent rather than speak against their rapists in court.
Dongeto said: “In some court transcripts secured by CRN, child rape victims get asked if they enjoyed the abuse, even in cases of incest. The current law facilitates legalized victim-blaming. It is unsurprising why many victims would rather stay silent than relive the trauma.”
The House of Representatives has already passed on third and final reading its version of the End Child Rape Bill, which is House Bill 7836, in Dec. 2020.
CRN said that the Senate has yet to commence the plenary proceedings for the proposed legislation. To date, committee report 279 on SBN 2332 is still pending plenary deliberations.
The CRN said it is high time for the Senate Committee on Rules chaired by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri to immediately calendar the plenary deliberations of the End Child Rape Bill, especially since election season will change the course of Senate’s calendar of activities.
“Every single day that the passage of this landmark law is delayed is another day of leaving Filipino children vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation,” Dongeto said.
“Child rights advocates throughout the nation are willing to extend its help, support, and expertise to our senators to speed up the deliberations,” he said.
The CRN stressed that public support for the said law is also important, and has encouraged more people to place their online signatures on the online petition: bit.ly/ENDChildRape.