August 3, 2021 – Child Rights Network (CRN), the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children's rights legislation in the Philippines, called on the Senate to expedite the passage of Senate Bill 2332 or the "Increasing the Age of Statutory Rape" Bill, more popularly known as the End Child Rape Bill.
Statutory rape is a crime that involves sexual contact with a person below the age of sexual consent. Under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code and as maintained by the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, the crime of statutory rape only covers children below 12 years old. This provision hasn't been changed for over 90 years.
While the House of Representatives has already passed on third and final reading its version of the End Child Rape Bill – House Bill 7836 – back in December 2020, the Senate has yet to commence the plenary proceedings for the proposed legislation. To date, committee report 279 on SBN 2332 is still pendingplenary deliberations.
Through its social media accounts, CRN called on the Senate Committee on Justice to take further action and the Senate Committee on Rules chaired by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri to immediately calendar the plenary deliberations of the End Child Rape Bill.
"A few months from now, the election season will undoubtedly change the course of the Senate's calendar of activities. That is why this early into the Third Regular Session, we are appealing on our senators to take the time and deliberate on bills providing special protection against statutory rape and other sexual abuse and exploitation," CRN Convenor Romeo Dongeto said.
"Every single day that the passage of this landmark law is delayed is another day of leaving Filipino children vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. Child rights advocates throughout the nation are willing to extend its help, support, and expertise to our senators to speed up the deliberations," Dongeto said.
CRN explained that rapists use this loophole in our country's laws to claim sex with children as young as 12 years old is consensual. One of the dire consequences of maintaining an incredibly low age to determine statutory rape is the reality that child rape victims get "retraumatized" as they still have to prove in court that they were, indeed, raped. Section 8 of Rule of Child Witness (A.M. NO. 004-07-SC) requires the child to testify in open court. However, the prosecutor or the judge can put the child in a separate room to protect the child and participate via live link TV. Nonetheless, pursuing a criminal case against a rapist, especially by a child that has been groomed, can be emotionally and psychologically damaging to a child rape victim.
"In some court transcripts secured by CRN, child rape victims get asked if they enjoyed the abuse, even in cases of incest. The current law facilitates legalized victim-blaming. It is unsurprising why many victims would rather stay silent than relive the trauma," Dongeto said.
CRN noted that such misuse of the provision in the Revised Penal Code enables rapists of children to simply get away with their crime and possibly even repeating such heinous acts to other children.
"If we amend the law, it would be easier for child rape victims to access justice," Dongeto said.
For the crime of statutory rape, only two things need to be proved in court: the child's age and that the sexual act happened.This was also validated during the rounds of focus group discussions conducted by CRN.
In the version passed by the House of Representatives, which resulted from in-depth consultations and discussions with family court judges, victim-survivors, social workers, civil society organizations, and children and youth groups, the following salient provisions were included:
● Increasing the age to determine statutory rape from below 12 to below 16 years old● Equalizing the protection for victims of rape, whether a boy or a girl ● Establishing "close-in-age" exemptions for consensual and non-abusive sex between adolescents ● Removing the "marriage as forgiveness" exemption where the rapist is freed of legal responsibility if the rapist marries the victim
The public’s clamor for this law is very clear and unequivocal. CRN’s online signature campaign on the End Child Rape Bill has already gained widespread support, reaching almost 300,000 signatories. (See online petition here: bit.ly/ENDChildRape)
"We call on our esteemed senators to finally discuss the End Child Rape Bill and join their colleagues in the House who expeditiously passed a similar bill back in 2020," Dongeto said.
"We trust that the Senate will find time to finally pass this landmark legislation and make a mark in history by leaving behind a potent law that holistically widens the protection offered to our children. The current law has to be amended. We have to do better for our children," Dongeto concluded.
About Child Rights Network
Child Rights Network is the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines. www.childrightsnetwork.ph
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