MANILA – A lawmaker at the House of Representatives on Monday lauded the signing into law of a measure that raises the minimum age of sexual consent from 12 to 16, describing it as "a major step forward" toward justice and equality.
Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun said the new law not only increases the age for determining statutory rape to below 16 years of age, but it also makes statutory rape gender neutral.
Fortun said this means that the law protects not only female, minors but also members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.
"As one of its House authors, I am elated that our collective efforts at pushing for stronger protection against rape and other forms of sexual abuse are advancing. The signing into law of Republic Act 11648 is a major step forward," he said.
He, however, noted that a number of notable provisions in the House version were not included in the final version, including the expansion of the definition of rape to consider certain other acts of sexual perversion as rape, the presumption of lack of consent on the part of a rape victim, and the removal of the archaic forgiveness clause which frees from criminal responsibility a culprit who marries his victim.
"Nevertheless, RA 11648 is already an important victory for Filipino women and children. We pray that the next Congress will push for the reforms not included in this new law," Fortun said.
Under the new law, rape is committed by a person who shall have carnal knowledge of another person “when the offended party is under 16 years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present.”
“Provided, that there shall be no criminal liability on the part of a person having carnal knowledge of another person under 16 years of age when the age difference between the parties is not more than three years, and the sexual act in question is proven to be consensual, non-abusive, and non-exploitative: Provided, further, that if the victim is under 13 years of age, this exception shall not apply,” it added.
As used in this act, non-abusive shall mean the absence of undue influence, intimidation, fraudulent machinations, coercion, threat, physical, sexual, psychological, or mental injury or maltreatment, either with intention or through neglect, during the sexual activities with child victim, the law said.
On the other hand, non-exploitative shall mean there is no actual or attempted act or acts of unfairly taking advantage of the child’s position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust during sexual activities. (PNA)