Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law raising the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 years old, in a bid to better protect minors from rape and sexual abuse.
Under the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, adults who have sexual relations with anyone under 16 years old are automatically guilty of statutory rape.
Duterte signed the law on Friday, according to the presidential office, which released the statute on Monday.
Before the law, the Philippines had one of the world’s lowest minimum ages of sexual consent, behind Nigeria’s 11 years old, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The law removes criminal liability if the age gap between partners is not more than three years, and if sex was proven to be consensual, non-abusive and non-exploitative.
The exemption does not apply if one of the parties involved is under 13 years old, it added.
Historic law to protect children
Senator Risa Hontiveros, principal author of the law, hailed the signing of the law, saying, “This is a historic legislation that we have long owed our children.”
“We did it!,” she tweeted. “It is has been my greatest honour to be one of the authors of this law. To more laws to protect our children!”
PANALO TAYO! ✊🏼💜— risa hontiveros (@risahontiveros) March 7, 2022
Batas na ang Raising the Age of Sexual Consent Act!
From 12 years old... 16 years old na. We did it!
It is has been my greatest honor to be one of the authors of this law. To more laws to protect our children! #R1saPa ! 💜✊🏼 pic.twitter.com/u5o30B38xw
One in every five children aged 13 years old to 17 years old in the Philippines have reported experiencing sexual violence, according to a joint study by the Council for Welfare of Children, a government agency, and UNICEF in 2015.
The study also showed that one in 25 children experienced forced sex during childhood, while perpetrators were often family members.