The Philippines has raised the age of sexual consent to 16 years old from 12 years old to protect children and teens against sexual abuse.
President Rodrigo Duterte on March 4 signed into law a measure raising the age of statutory rape to 16 from 12, amending the Anti-Rape Law and Anti-Child Abuse Law. A copy of the law was made available to the public on Monday.
Under the measure, individuals can be charged with statutory rape if they sexually abuse anyone who is 16 years old and below.
For guardians and persons of authority such as teachers and priests who were found guilty of sexually abusing victims aged 16 and below, they will face imprisonment of at least six months to a year.
Family members found to be guilty of sexually abusing their relatives aged 16 and below will face longer jail time of up to six years.
For adults found deceiving minors aged 16 and below for sexual reasons, they will face at least a month up to half a year of jail time.
Teen couples aged 16 and below who engage in consensual sexual activity, however, are exempted from criminal liability if the age difference is not more than three years and if the victim is not younger than 13 years old.
Individuals using teens and children aged 16 and below for child prostitution and other sexual abuse for money or profit can also be charged with rape based on the law.
Prior to Duterte's signing of the amendments to the law, the Philippines had one of the lowest minimum age of sexual consent in the world.
One in every five children in the Philippines between the ages 13 and 17 years old said they experienced sexual violence while one in 25 suffered from forced consummated sex during childhood, a 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children showed.