To protect minors against the crime of rape and other forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought to increase the age of sexual consent from the current 12 – 18 years old.
A known human rights and social justice champion, De Lima said that minors, especially those at 12 years old, have scant knowledge about sexual intercourse because there is no proper sex education provided in schools.
“Allowing our children at the tender age of 12 years old to decide on their own whether the time is proper to engage in sexual intercourse – would be like abandoning them blindfold in a tunnel of mazes,” she said in filing Senate Bill (SB) No. 622.
SB No. 622 seeks to amend Article 266-a (1) (d) of Republic Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code. A same measure, logged as SB No. 1949, was filed by the Senator in the 17th Congress but languished in the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
De Lima lamented how “age of consent”, which is defined as the age at which a person is deemed legally competent to consent to sexual activity, has often been brushed aside by Filipinos and remains a taboo topic in social gatherings.
She noted that the Philippines has one of the lowest age of consent at 12 years old which runs contrary to the international standard set forth in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which the Philippines is a signatory.
The Convention defines a child as every human being below the age of 18 years, which is similar to Republic Act No. 7610, or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act,” which defines a child as 18 years old below.
Additionally, the Philippines places second in the list of countries with the lowest age of consent in the entire world, which is pegged between 16 and 18 years old.
“The general historic trend among Western countries in recent history is to continually raise the age of consent while eliminating ambiguities associated with gender and sexual act. Here in the Philippines, we deal with the situation quite differently,” De Lima explained.
The lady Senator from Bicol pointed out that it is vital to delineate childhood from adulthood and reassess the choices that the law allows the children to independently take, in consideration with the youth’s lack of experience and wisdom.
“In amending the age of consent to be on the same level as that of the age of majority, the State would safeguard the innocence of the youth, prevent sexual predators from violating them, and further ensure that their best interests are protected and promoted,” she said.
“In increasing the age of consent to eighteen years old, the State is sending an unequivocal message that the youth will be protected by all means and at all costs,” she added.
If enacted into law, De Lima said her proposed measure will comply with Article II, Section 13 of the Constitution which states that: “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being”, and with our international obligations.