MANILA, Philippines – The Senate of the Philippines on Monday (September 27) passed on third and final reading a proposed measure that seeks to raise the age of sexual consent from the current 12 to 16 years old.
The bill was proposed in a bid to protect young people from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.
With 22 affirmative votes, no negative vote and one abstention, the Senate approved Senate Bill 2332, or An Act Increasing the Age for Determining Statutory Rape and other Acts of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation to Protect Children.
It seeks to amend Republic Act 3815, or the Revised Penal Code, and RA 7610, also known as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
Under the bill, both men and women could be charged with statutory rape, and that the sexual orientation of the offender is not important.
During the period of interpellation on the bill, senators debated on the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” clause that would recognize “consensual” sexual activity between young couples if proven.
Senators later agreed that the exemption from criminal liability shall cover partners 16 year old and below, with age difference of not more than three years, but shall not apply if the victim is aged 13 and below.
In a 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, one in every five children in the Philippines in the age group of 13 to 17 said they experienced sexual violence while one in 25 suffered from forced consummated sex during childhood.
Earlier, United Nations (UN) Philippines called on Congress to prioritize the measure increasing the age for determining the commission of statutory rape to below 16 years old from the current below 12 years old.