After a French court acquitted a 30-year old man of child rape after he had sexual relations with an 11-year old, the public was outraged and rightly so. The judge ruled that unless it could be proven that he had used force or intimidation, it was not rape but sexual assault of a child and he could be sentenced to a much lesser penalty. Then in another similar case, a 28-year-old man who had sexually abused another 11-year-old child was allowed to face the lesser charge of sexual assault and not rape. The public was again outraged and the decision of the court was reversed and he will face charges of rape- a small victory to celebrate on International Women’s Day.
The public outcry and the many similar cases in past years have pushed the French legislators to increase the age of consent to 15. So any sexual act with a minor 15 years of age and lower will be considered rape. That is bad news for the pedophiles and child rapists. The French legislators will also enact strict laws to protect children and women from sexual harassment.
In most jurisdictions the age of consent is between 14 and 17 years of age. In the Philippines, The “minimum age of sexual consent” is not clearly established. The Revised Penal Code imposes maximum penalties for sexual offenses when the victim is under 12 years of age but imposes lower penalties for sexual offenses against minors over twelve (12) years of age. Thus, the Philippines has one of the lowest minimum age established in determining statutory sexual abuses committed against children.
In past years, child sexual offenders got their way with children. Child sexual abuse was even more common and never talked about, reported, or penalized. Men were more abusive, dominant, and powerful. Women and children were greatly exploited and abused at will and no recourse in those days and even in many places up to the present. But there has been an awakening to the criminal nature of child sexual abuse and the harassment of women. What was once tolerated or ignored is now a cause of protest, outrage and action to stop it and strict laws in most countries bring the perpetrators to justice.
Until recently, institutional child sex abuse was common, ignored and covered up as ‘dirty old men having fun.’ Apathy and indifference to the idea of childhood was common and children were seen as the property of their parents and not having rights. But the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child came into force on 2 September 1990 and it made children’s rights paramount and new national laws to protect them were enacted worldwide. The convention declared a child to be anyone below 18 years of age.
There are associations trying to legalize sex with children. The North American Man-Boy Lovers Association is one of them (NAMBLA). It is perhaps only in America where it is legal to promote the practice of child abuse but not to engage in it. Now the best picture of the Oscar Awards is "The Shape of Water" that tells of a young woman having sex with a water beast. It is described as a romance. What kind of sexual misbehavior will be next admired, promoted in movies, and even made legal? At least, we ought to stop adults having sex with little children whatever about the unfortunate beasts.
But the rights and dignity of children is now recognized and the acts of abuse are dealt with as heinous crimes as they should be. Raising the age of consent is a step forward. The human race is making progress however slowly and much more has yet to be done to reverse its deeply entrenched moral corruption.
The age of sexual consent for very young children was and still is a excuse for legal pedophilia. Old men “marring young girls” some as young as eleven years old is a depravity covered by tradition or cultural practice in some countries.
How convenient for the pedophiles. The good news is that the prevalence of child marriage has fallen greatly in Asia in the past ten years, a recent report says. Unicef reports that 25 million child marriages were prevented in the last ten years worldwide. As many as 12 million girls are married worldwide every year. In India alone 1.5 million girls are married before the age of 18 and from a high of 47 percent of girls given in child marriage ten years ago, today it is down to 27 percent, a big decline. This is due to more education for girls who now want to have a life of their own and due to the public awareness that early marriage of children leads to health problems, a broken culture ,a loss of childhood and a weaker economy.
The days of ignorance and indifference are over. Protecting children by saving them from abusers and human traffickers by campaigning for justice and healing for victims is what we must do.
Rev. Shay Cullen is a co-founder of Preda.org -- a nonprofit dedicated to protecting children and vulnerable women.