/ 15 January 2022

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday said that increasing the statutory rape age will be a crucial next step in safeguarding Filipino children from violence and abuse.

Gatchalian made the statement following the signing of Republic Act 11596 which criminalizes child marriages.

Last year, Congress ratified the bicameral conference committee report on increasing the statutory rape age from 12 to 16.

Gatchalian, one of the co-authors of the measure, said that the ban on child marriage and the higher statutory rape age should deter predators from committing gender-based violence and violation of human rights.

“Kung maisasabatas sa lalong madaling panahon ang pagtaas ng statutory rape age, mas mapapaigting natin ang mga hakbang upang tuluyang masugpo ang mga child marriages sa ating bansa. Ang mga kabataan ay dapat patuloy na nag-aaral at hindi nagpapakasal sa murang edad. Napapanahon nang masugpo natin ang ganitong uri ng pang-aabuso at karahasan,” the chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, said.

Under the new law, unlawful acts include the facilitation and solemnization of a child marriage, where both or one of the spouses is below 18 years of age, as well as cohabitation of an adult with a child.

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, the Philippines ranks 12th in the absolute number of child marriages globally.

Because of school closures, service disruptions and economic hardships caused by the Covid19 pandemic, Unicef warned that 10 million more child marriages may occur worldwide before the end of the decade.

The United Nations Population Fund said that many adolescent brides are exposed to early and frequently repeated pregnancies and childbirths.