Strongly affected by the sexual abuse of minors for decades, the Philippines modified, on Friday March 4, a law almost a century old, through its president Rodrigo Duterte, in order to raise the sexual majority from 12 to 16 years old.
According to the new law signed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday and made public on Monday, sexual relations with a minor under the age of 16 will now be illegal and punishable by a maximum prison sentence of forty years. This directive came to replace a law almost a century old fixing the sexual majority at 12 years.
“This law is a very good instrument of protection for our children against sexual violence, whether it starts online or during a physical encounter. It is very important to have a clear age to determine statutory rape. Establishing the criterion of this crime to children under 12, according to a law of 1930, was just something unjustifiable”, analyzed Margarita Ardivilla, specialist at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Philippines.
It should be noted, however, that adolescent couples will be exempt from this law in the event of an age difference not exceeding three years and if the sexual intercourse is consented to by both partners.
A disturbing national study in 2015
In 2015, a national study, commissioned by the Philippine government and relayed by UNICEF, revealed worrying statistics. Indeed, one in five children aged 13 to 17 had already suffered sexual violence at the time and one in 25 young people had been raped during their childhood.
This political shift “sends a very strong message that child rape is a heinous crime and must be punished accordingly,” said Rowena Legaspi, executive director of the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center.
In January 2022, President Roberto Duterte had already signed a law going in this direction, by prohibiting child marriages in a country where one in six minors married before their majority.