An advocacy group has called on lawmakers to raise the age of sexual consent, which is used to determine statutory rape, from 12 to 16 years old.
Save the Children Philippines CEO Albert Muyot said under the 1997 Anti-Rape Law, a sexual act is considered statutory rape if the victim is under 12 years old or is mentally unstable.
This means sex with a child as young as 12 years old is not automatically considered as statutory rape, and the victim has to prove that rape occurred.
“We have the lowest age of sexual consent in Asia, and one of the lowest in the world. We call on our lawmakers to raise the age of consent to 16 years old to make it consistent with international standards,” Muyot said in an interview during the launch of Save The Children’s #LahatDapat Christmas campaign.
Muyot said the need to amend the law becomes more pressing when juxtaposed with the country’s record of having one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Southeast Asia—a problem that has not changed in the last 10 years—with three in every 50 pregnant women aged 15 to 19 years old.
Teenage mothers face health risks, including poor nutrition, bleeding after delivery, eclampsia and other complications, Muyot said. Their babies are also at risk of premature birth, low birth weight and neonatal death.
Meanwhile, Save the Children also highlighted the need to help at least 800,000 malnourished and some 3.3 million stunted children in the country, especially those in disadvantaged communities.
“Malnutrition is a silent killer,” Muyot said, noting how at least 95 children die of preventable diseases related to malnutrition.
“Inflation has hit more than eight million food-poor families in the Philippines. This means an estimated 1.5 million Filipino children go to sleep hungry every night, not having eaten a meal all day,” he said.
Muyot expressed hope that candidates in next year’s midterm elections will include protecting and promoting the rights and welfare of children in their agenda.
“Children are very easy to forget during elections because they are not voters. This is why we are putting the issues out so people can ask their candidates—what are you going to do about this?” he said.