Salinlahi statement urging congress to enact into law the bill that seeks to increase the age of statutory rape

Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns strongly calls the legislators’ attention for the enactment into law of a bill that proposes to increase the age of statutory rape from the current 12 years old to 16 years old.

Salinlahi believes the urgency of its passage into law under the current situation that exacerbates children’s vulnerability to abuses such as rape and Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation on Children (OSAEC). The Philippine government is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. It is tasked to embrace its commitment to the said treaty by ensuring the welfare and upholding the rights of the Filipino children in general, more so in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic that has placed children in a situation more vulnerable to abuse.

According to statistics, child sexual abuse, including child rape, has been rampant even without COVID-19. The 2016 National Baseline Study on Violence against Children revealed that 1 in 5 Filipino children aged 13-18 years old has experienced sexual violence. Of these, 32% reported that they were raped. These are gravely underreported as the same study estimates that less than 5% of cases are reported to authorities.

The vulnerability of children is further highlighted with the reported increase of incest rape cases during the imposition of extended community lockdowns. This vulnerability has doubled exponentially as families face increased hunger, poverty, socio-economic and psychosocial instability.

Without the possibility of taking time along with other children outside their homes and play, children are more engaged in using gadgets and freely surf online not knowing the danger the online world could cause them.

According to Child Rights Network (CRN), with the widening availability of internet connection in the Philippines, and with the ECQ prompting children to spend more time online, sexual predators can find it easier to prey on children and that It is also apparent that online sexual predators are taking advantage of the situation to exploit more children to satisfy disturbing sexual obsessions.

It is important that the lack of consent is presumed especially among minors. We must recognize that a 12 year old child cannot in any way properly discern abuse and consequently cannot adequately defend herself or himself from such. Cultural stigma also awaits those who report or disclose sexual violence or abuse.

Except from the actual physical bruises that might heal in time, abuse to children leaves them a more serious injury that would take a lifetime for them if not addressed properly. Child abuse and neglect can affect all domains of development – physical, psychological, emotional, behavioral, and social – all of which are interrelated. The possible consequences of child abuse and neglect are identified and broadly linked to all abuse types; however, where appropriate, associations are made between specific types of maltreatment and negative outcomes. Learning and development problems, mental health problems, behavioral problems, alcohol and other drug use, physical health problems, homelessness, teenage pregnancy, aggression, violence, engagement to criminal activities, and the worst, youth suicide.

In the prevalence of the worsening vulnerability of children to become victims of these kinds of abuse, Salinlahi strongly believes that passing of a law aimed to protect the rights of the child against any form of violence, abuse and exploitation is a positive step that will help us end the culture of violence, sexism and any prevailing culture that views women and children as sex objects or commodity.

Again, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns reiterates our call for legislators to pass the bill that aims to increase the age of statutory rape in the country.

Sign the petition initiated by Child Rights Network (CRN) Philippines

Click the link