As cases of teenage pregnancy in the Philippines continued to surge in 2019, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) pointed out that some teenagers are victims of child abuse or rape. At the kick-off of National Women’s Month, Senator Win Gatchalian emphasized that this adds urgency to raising the age of sexual consent in the country.
POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said that two out of three of the partners of these adolescents at risk are older by 20 years so there’s a degree of power play. The POPCOM chief added that an analysis of the 2019 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) would suggest 10,000 cases of statutory rape.
While Gatchalian has been emphasizing the important role of keeping girls in school, where they can access information and sexuality education, he also identified the need to amend the law on statutory rape as a means of running after abusers preying on young girls. Gatchalian proposed raising the age of sexual consent to 18 in Senate Bill No. 739. The age of consent in the Philippines is 12 years old, the lowest in Asia and the second lowest in the world. Last year, the Senate has approved in the committee level to raise the age of statutory rape to 16.
“Sa ating bansa, itinuturing nating age of majority ang edad na 18 ngunit ang age of sexual consent ay edad na 12. Dapat lang na amyendahan na ang batas upang maprotektahan natin ang mga kabataan at panagutin ang mga nang-aabuso sa kanila,” said Gatchalian.
The lawmaker previously warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate domestic child violence, abuse, and the teenage pregnancy surge. Of the 13,923 cases of violence against women and children recorded from March 15 to November 30 last year—when restrictions posed challenges to rescue efforts—4,747 were cases of violence against children, according to the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW).
POPCOM recently reported that pregnancies among minors aged 10-14 is up by seven percent in 2019 compared to 2018. In 2019, minors who gave birth in the country increased to 62,510 from the 62,341 recorded in 2018.
Teenage mothers are more prone to abuse, according to the National Demographic and Health Survey (2017), which reported that 26.4 of married women aged 15-19 reported experiencing physical, sexual, and emotional violence.