Philippines Senate backs bill to raise sexual consent age from 12 to 16

Philippines Senate backs bill to raise sexual consent age from 12 to 16

FILE PHOTO: Donna Valdez, 15, whose name AFP has changed to protect her identity, carries her child at a health centre in Manila on Dec 2, 2020. The Catholic-majority country has one of the lowest ages of consent in the world, allowing adults to legally have sex with children as young as 12 if they agree. Congress now looks set to approve a bill to raise the age to 16.  (AFP)
FILE PHOTO: Donna Valdez, 15, whose name AFP has changed to protect her identity, carries her child at a health centre in Manila on Dec 2, 2020. The Catholic-majority country has one of the lowest ages of consent in the world, allowing adults to legally have sex with children as young as 12 if they agree. Congress now looks set to approve a bill to raise the age to 16. (AFP)

MANILA: A bill to raise the minimum age of sexual consent in the Philippines from 12 to 16 has moved closer towards becoming law, after senators approved it in its final reading.

The bill aims to protect children from rape and other forms of sexual abuse and was backed by 22 senators on Monday, with one abstention. A counterpart measure was approved by the lower chamber in December last year.

A bicameral committee must now consolidate the two drafts and pass it to the president for approval.

The Philippines currently has the lowest minimum age of sexual consent in Southeast Asia, and one of the lowest in the world.

Seven of 10 victims of rape in the Philippines are children, data from the Center for Women's Resources show.

Under the bill, any adult, both men and women, engaging in sexual contact with anyone 16 years old or lower would be committing statutory rape. For more than a century, the minimum age has been 12.

"Today, the senate has finally and clearly said no to child rape. Today, the senate has sounded the clarion call for change," Senator Risa Hontiveros, a principal author of the bill, said in a statement. 

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