The Philippines is set to approve legislation that would mean the age of sexual consent would change from 12 to 16.
The Philippines currently has one of the world’s lowest ages of consent in the world. However, this is set to change due to years of campaigning for a new bill. This move has been described as a “crucial development” by UNICEF.
UNICEF’s chief of child protection in the Philippines, Patrizia Benvenuti, stated: “This is a victory for Filipino children. Pegging 12 as the age of consent is really not consistent with scientific studies on brain development.”
A study that took place in May by the International Justice Mission found that the cases of online child sex abuse were sharply increasing and in some particular cases, parents are agreeing to victimize their child in exchange for money.
John Richmond, who is the leader of the US’s global engagement to combat human trafficking, said that it appears as though the pandemic is increasing this phenomenon.
He said: “The traffickers are actually parents or close family members of the kids they are exploiting, and so lockdown orders mean that children are being locked down with their traffickers.”
One teenager shared her story with AFP, about how she had found herself pregnant at the age of 14-years-old. Now aged 16, she says she now realises that she was far too young to be having a child.
She commented: “I was still a child then, I didn’t know anything about sex.”
As the age of consent is so low, it’s been made incredibly difficult for perpetrators to be prosecuted in cases of rape.
This is due to it being argued that the sex was consensual, executive director of the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center Rowena Legaspi has explained to AFP.
She said: “Imagine a 12-year-old… that girl is still a minor. How could she have consented?”
In addition to this, she has argued that sexism and “victim-blaming” attitudes amongst the judiciary need to be changed, with cases needed to be moved along faster too.
She said: “We have so many laws that protect children but the problem is the implementation. You only change the law but the system is still there.”
A study was carried out by UNICEF in 2015 in which it was found that one in every five children aged 13 to 17 years of age had experienced sexual violence.
When this newly proposed bill is put into law, it will automatically mean that engaging in sexual activity with a child under the age of 16 is illegal. This could then carry the penalty of life imprisonment.
It is hoped by activists that such a bill will help to deter sexual predators, but others argue much more is needed to be done in order to combat sexual violence against children.
Meanwhile, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, Carlos Conde, said that children should have access to age-appropriate sex education “from an early age”.
Featured Image Credit: Pexel
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