Child rape and sexual abuse are rampant in the Philippines, according to official data.
A woman or child is raped nearly every hour, Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a document to the Senate, citing figures from the Center for Women’s Resources.
Seven out of 10 victims are children and the vast majority are girls.
A government-backed nationwide study in 2015 showed one in five children aged 13 to 17 experienced sexual violence, while UNICEF said one in 25 were raped during childhood.
But prosecuting adult perpetrators in rape cases involving children as young as 12 is difficult because they can argue the sex was consensual, said Rowena Legaspi, executive director of the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center.
Legaspi said, “Imagine a 12-year-old… that girl is still a minor. How could she have consented?”
A proposed bill will make it automatically illegal and carry a penalty of life imprisonment, though it will not punish young couples close in age.