Congress is moving to strengthen the country’s existing laws protecting children, aiming to give them even stronger protection against rape, sexual abuse, and exploitation.

Zenaida Rosales, executive director of the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA), said in a statement that the House is consolidating three separate measures and will transmit a consolidated bill to the Senate for its concurrence.

She said a bill seeking to raise the age for determining the crime of statutory rape from 12 to 16 years of age, and other acts of sexual abuse and exploitation to protect children will amend Republic Act or RA 3815 or the Revised Penal Code. This includes making rape by penetration and rape by sexual assault punishable to the full extent of the law.

Rosales also said in the statement that the measure also seeks to amend the related RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children against abuse, exploitation and discrimination and RA 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997.

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In all the measures, the maximum penalties for offenders will apply to both boy and girl victims.

She said this is a welcome development. “Boys have been experiencing trauma from rape, sexual assault, abuse and exploitation but society has not paid attention to their plight,” Rosales said.

Rosales cited the 2016 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, the lone official study that exposed the data for the first time, as evidence that sexual violence is more common in males (28.7%) than girls (20.1%) in the Philippines.

Based on the study, 1 in 4 children (24.9%) has encountered sexual assault in any context, and 1 in 5 adolescents aged 13-17 has experienced sexual violence, with 1 in 25 having suffered rape during childhood.

Rosales said the CPTCSA has established this same data for many years through small-scale research in its regular publication, the Philippine Journal of Child Sexual Abuse (link: https://cptcsaph.org/programs/philippine-journal-of-child-sexual-abuse-pjcsa/) that shares multidisciplinary studies on boys and sexual violence. Anchored on the advocacy to protect boys, Rosales said the CPTCSA aims to encourage families and communities to change how they treat and nurture boys.

“We need to stop the harmful social norms that we impose on boys. We also need to provide them a safe space to talk about their feelings and problems,” said Rosales.  “If we change our expectations about boys, we provide them strength and protection from harm.”

Last April, the CPTCSA launched the Blue Umbrella Day (BUD) international campaign to draw attention to the truth about boys and encourage parents, communities and societies to protect boys and nurture them in ways that best support their wellbeing. The campaign hopes to engage the United Nations into adopting the movement into an international day of advocacy.

The CPTCSA is part of the London-based Family for Every Child Global Alliance in initiating the international BUD campaign simultaneously with India, Paraguay, and Guyana. The Philippine BUD campaign is supported by 12 government agencies and 6 international NGOs.

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