12-Year-Olds Can No Longer Consent to Sex in the Philippines

The change has been called a “milestone” in tackling child abuse in the Philippines, which previously had the world’s joint-lowest age of consent.

Mar 8 2022, 5:32am

Until last week, it was possible for a 12-year-old in the Philippines to consent to sexual intercourse with an adult. 

But on Friday, the Philippine government raised the age of sexual consent to 16, as President Rodrigo Duterte signed a new bill into law in what the UN has called a “legislative milestone” towards tackling child abuse and sexual exploitation in the Southeast Asian country. Sexual intercourse with a 13- to 16-year-old is still legal, however, if the second party is not more than three years older.

Previously, under the nation’s Anti-Rape Act of 1997, 12 was the age at which someone was considered legally old enough to consent to participation in a sexual encounter. This leaves Angola as the only country with 12 as the age of consent, the lowest worldwide.

Japan has the lowest age of consent of any highly developed nation at 13—a figure that has not changed since 1907 and is on par with Niger, Comoros and Burkina Faso. It is often incorrectly reported that Nigeria has an age of consent of 11, when it is in fact 18


Human rights groups and charity organisations have praised the Philippines’ new laws, which apply to all genders. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called the passage of the legislation as “an essential step towards fulfilling children’s rights to protection from sexual violence, abuse and exploitation, regardless of their sex, orientation and gender identity and expression.”

“The United Nations has long voiced concerns about the alarmingly low age of sexual consent in the Philippines,” UNICEF said in a statement. “The age of consent was the lowest in Asia and one of the lowest in the world, leaving children in the Philippines vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.”

A 2015 study by UNICEF and the Center for Women’s Resources, a local non-governmental group, indicated that seven of 10 rape victims in the Philippines were children. One in five respondents aged 13 to 17 also reported experiencing sexual violence. 

“The responses of around 4,000 children across all socio-economic backgrounds revealed that most of the violence children experience occur in places where they ought to feel safe, perpetrated by family and friends they trust,” the study said.

Rights groups in the Philippines, which have campaigned for decades for a change to the law, said the previously low age of consent left young children vulnerable to being coerced into saying they had consented to sexual intercourse. 

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, a national association of human rights lawyers in the Philippines, applauded the change. 

“We welcome this legal development and hope that it will help protect young girls from rape and sexual abuse,” said Josalee Deinla, spokesperson for the group.

Follow Gavin Butler on Twitter.


Philippines, world crime, worldnews

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