The Philippines Is Set To Raise The Legal Age Of Sexual Consent From 12 To 16

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The Philippines Is Set To Raise The Legal Age Of Sexual Consent From 12 To 16

Photo: Sisters Rose Ann, age 15, (right) and Ros Jane, age 17, hold their babies in the neighborhood where they live in Manila. Hannah Reyes Morales for NPR

The Philippines has approved a long-awaited change in the law that will change the age of consent in the country from 12 to 16, bringing it into line with most other countries around the world. As the law currently stands, it is legal for an adult individual to have sex with a 12-year-old. The law has been in place since 1930.

The change comes after long campaigns by activists and human rights groups who have said that the current law is simply an excuse for the widespread abuse of young girls. It is also believed that the lax laws have resulted in the Philippines becoming a global hot-spot for child sex-tourism, whereby men from other countries go to the country to commit acts that they would be arrested for in their own countries. As many as 500 teenagers give birth every day in the country.

UNICEF spokesperson Patrizia Benvenuti said of the decision by the Filipino government:

"This is a victory for Filipino children. Pegging 12 as the age of consent is really not consistent with scientific studies on brain development."

The Philippines is a deeply Catholic country and abortion and divorce remain illegal. The number of heart-breaking stories that have occurred as a result of the current law are too many to count, but one victim, Rose Alvarez, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, had her story reported by the AFP news agency. In the interview, she spoke of how a man twice her age started having sex with her when she was 13 and that she eventually fell pregnant at 14. She said:

"I was still a child then, I didn't know anything about sex. I was telling him to use a condom... but he removed it. He didn't want to use it."

Alvarez, who now has a child, spoke of how she was also drugged and raped by the man:

"When I woke up I was shocked to see blood in my underwear and it hurt a lot. I was too intoxicated to know what was happening. I want to go out with friends again, I want to have fun. I'm jobless, my parents are also out of work. Where will we get money for my baby's needs? I'm too young to be worn out. I still have plans, I want to marry an American to have a better life."

Because the age of consent is so low, many incidents of forced sexual violence against very young girls are not prosecuted because it is later claimed that the act was consensual. It is thought that as many as 1 in 5 Filipino children experience sexual violence by the time they are 18.

Some activist groups worry that while the law may be changed, the old-system and cultural attitudes will remain in place. They have strongly suggested that there should be a large-scale public education in place and that consent and sexual violence must be taught in schools so that girls have a better chance of being protected.

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Thinking Humanity: The Philippines Is Set To Raise The Legal Age Of Sexual Consent From 12 To 16
The Philippines Is Set To Raise The Legal Age Of Sexual Consent From 12 To 16
The Philippines has approved a long-awaited change in the law that will change the age of consent in the country from 12 to 16. Brining it into line w
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