DAVAO CITY, Philippines- Children rights advocates are launching a campaign to raise to 16 years old the age of accountability in statutory rape cases.
The Child Rights Network, the United Nations Children Fund or Unicef, the ACT Children Alliance as well as the Council for the Welfare of Children launched the nationwide campaign #ENDChildRape that urged lawmakers to vote for the passage of an amendatory law that will increase the age to determine statutory rape in the Philipines from below 12 years old to below 16 years old.
Under Philippine law, an adult having sexual relation with a minor as young as 12 years old is not considered statutory rape, or an act constituting automatic rape.
Atty. Ma.Margarita Ardivilla, who is a Child Protection Specialist of Unicef and spokesperson of the #ENDChild Rape campaign, said that in the Revised Penal Code the standard age of accountability is 12 and its offender only limits to a girl victim and a boy offender to consider it as rape. Aside from the lack of legal protection afforded children above 12, she said the current law does not provide equal protection for boys and girls.
“This forces the children-victims to be re-traumatized by court procedures and allows the rapist to get away with child rape,” she added. In particular, rape committed against boys above 12 is only considered as a sexual assault.
“Increasing the age to determine statutory rape will put cases of rape against boys above 12 under statutory rape and will help bring perpetrators to justice,” said Atty. Ardivilla as she added that the child is perceived by law to be old enough to undergo cross-examination during court procedures for cases of rape and even incest.
In their proposed amendments, “whether it is statutory rape or not, it should be punishable by reclusion perpetua”. Currently, punishment for sexual assault case of a boy victim aging 11-year-old only limits to 12-16 years of imprisonment.
Among the countries in Asia, the Philippines has the lowest age to determine statutory rape and one of the lowest in the world.
Philippines has its lowest age of 12 years old while neighboring countries like South Korea (20), Indonesia (16), Malaysia (16), Singapore (16), China (15), Thailand (15) , Vietnam (18) and Bahrain which is a Muslim country has its highest age of sexual consent of 21 years old.
International Convention on the Rights of the Child has already signified the importance to raise the country’s age to 16 years old.
Ardivilla said that a low statutory rape age only allows child rapists to get away with their crime and victimize more children.
Cause for Alarm
Medical expert Dr. Bernie Madrid said that a child aging 12 years old has “young maturity level”. This often led them into making unsafe and involuntary decisions that usually put them into the vulnerability of being raped.
The Philippine National Police said there was a 48 percent increase in reported cases of child rape, including incest and attempted rape, while every 62 minutes, rape happens in the Philippines with about 7 out 10 rape victims are children.
Most of rape victims have ages 14 to 18 years old with most perpetrators identified as their neighbors, boyfriends, father, uncle, brother, cousins and strangers.
Madrid said 13-15 years old girls are relatively young and are more vulnerable to imminent danger such as teenage pregnancy, trauma, suicide, death,Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS),substance abuse, self-blame, social dysfunction, depression, school dropout, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.
Support for amendments
Department of Social Welfare Undersecretary for Institutional Development Mae Fe Ancheta-Templa signifies support for the campaign stating that the DSWD office has a high number of catered rape victims aging 12-15 years old in 2017 alone.
Templa in her statement said that it is important to look into consideration the issue of “gender and age” under the revised penal code. As a policy advocacy, Templa said that it should be treated as a developmentally appropriate response for children undergoing difficult times as rape victims.
The Undersecretary also calls on the City Council of Davao though Davao City Councilor Abigail Dalodo-Ortiz, chairperson of women, children and family relations to adopt a resolution supporting the amendment of the Anti-Rape Law of 1997.
Meanwhile, City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio also conveyed her support to the campaign. The mayor said that the city has a synergy of efforts in partnership with different government agencies and private stakeholders in the city.
“Beyond all these, awareness must be intensified in schools and communities to educate children on their rights against violence and on the common schemes on sexual assault,” said Mayor Sara.
The mayor also calls on all davaoenos and every child advocate in intensifying campaign through responsible guardianship and credible reporting as significant steps in putting a complete stop to sexual harassment.(davaotoday.com)