Why are Philippine senators and members of the House of Representatives delaying the completion and passing of vital historical laws that will protect children presently at risk of being victims of sexual abuse and sold as ‘baby brides’ for the sexual gratification of old men, asks Fr Shay Cullen.
Allegedly, some senators are delaying the passing of a bill that will raise the age of sexual consent from 12 years of age to 16. When passed, the age of consent says it will be statutory rape to engage in sex with a minor aged 16 years and below.
In the Philippine House of Representatives, the bill passed by the Senate against child marriage (Senate Bill 162 or the Girls not Brides Act of 2019) faces indifference and a long delay passing it.
Recent reports show that many thousands of girl-children as young as 12 years of age worldwide and in the Philippines are being sold off to men 25 years old and older in so-called ‘child marriages.’
The pandemic, poverty, loss of jobs and hardship is likely driving the huge increase in the sale of ‘child brides,’ which is really child sexual abuse and a cover for paedophilia. It is a tactic to evade the child protection laws and satisfy their lust and sexual gratification with a child.
It has to be stopped.
A child cannot exercise free will and give consent to such a relationship when under the pressure of parents and adults. In most cases, there is no formal wedding ceremony. The child is forced to live-in with the older man. A payment or ‘dowry’ in kind or cash is common. Two healthy goats will get you a 15-year-old in some villages.
But this abusive relationship is a serious violation of human rights. UNICEF says, “The right to free and full consent to a marriage is recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in many subsequent human rights instruments – consent cannot be ‘free and full’ when at least one partner is very immature.”
The age of child in Philippine law is below 18 and a minor under 18 cannot drive a vehicle or drink alcohol but a 12-year-old can have sex with a 40-year-old man, and they call it marriage. Why this has been allowed to go on for generations? It speaks of a wicked and deviant element in society, a social evil, where the ruling powers have conspired to keep it that way.
The Church leaders did not and do not speak out, express moral outrage, protest and campaign for a change in the law to protect vulnerable children.
The ruling powers in society decided to stay quiet and to keep it that way for the pleasure of depraved paedophiles in high and low positions of authority. They found it convenient to salve their depraved conscience by saying a 12-year-old or 14- or 16-year-old gave consent and it is “legal” however grossly immoral it is.
Children are brainwashed into believing that the older man ‘loves’ them because he gives them nice things. In the Philippines, a recent survey in Zambales has discovered many children as young as 12 to 16 years old have been sold to older men as ‘brides’ in return for payment.
However, the Philippine Senate has passed the ‘Girls not Brides Act of 2019’ by an overwhelming majority led by its main sponsor, Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, who is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality in the 18th Congress.
The House of Representatives has balked and so far has refused to pass a similar bill. That’s a big win for the child sexual abusers in power. In the Senate, there are those senators delaying the passing of the law to raise the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 years of age. When every day one in three children are sexually raped and abused, delay is another big win for the paedophiles.
The shocking reality today is that one in every three girls is sexually abused worldwide and it applies to the Philippines. The abusers are the biological father, uncle, step-father, live-in partner of the mother, brother, cousin, neighbour, a pastor, or priest or a powerful person.
Some 13- and 16-year-old children are even raped by so-called ‘rescuers’ of trafficked children. A horrid crime recently discovered and soon to be exposed and then some will meet their destiny.
The practice of denial, cover up and a culture of enforced silence is placed on the child-victims and on their families to protect society, institutions, charities, civic organisations, churches and the powerful. It is a culture of silence to protect the guilty, those responsible and to avoid the shame and in recent times avoid severe legal consequences.
The so-called ‘consent’ by the child to ‘marriage’ is really fear of punishment, disapproval, and denial of parental love and support. The child is frightened into being subservient and docile and too terrified to cry out, scream and run and tell.
Most times there is no one to tell, no one to listen, no one who cares. Child sexual abuse under the guise of consent and so called ‘child marriages’ have been condoned by the powerful for generations. The child cannot say no or complain because she has no choice.
Now, what could be more depraved than to cover up child sexual abuse and try to avoid penalties of strict anti-child abuse laws RA 7610 by declaring that the relationship was approved by ‘marriage?’
The ‘Child Bride’ defence for paedophilia is common. If a man rapes a child and then offers to marry her and pay a dowry, frequently it is approved by many parents. This is a crime and cultural depravity. The new law will stop it.
A recent study mentioned above, conducted in Zambales province, showed that among poor villagers the practice is widespread. Mavie (not her real name) is a 12-year-old girl and her parents ‘married’ her off to a 20-year-old man in return for a payment. She had no say in it.
He treats the child as his ‘wife’ and has regular sexual acts with her. The child says she wants to go to school like any child. Even worse, the parents allow the man to live in their bamboo-thatched hut with their daughter. A semi-illiterate 12-year-old girl cannot freely consent to such an act and is usually forced into it.
Hopefully readers will be shocked out of complacency and indifference and not ignore the problem. It is our collective responsibility to fight for child rights. Reach for your keyboard and send an email to the following to get their attention and attach and send them this article.
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