TODAY, November 20, is UN World Day for the Rights of Children.
Reminding the faithful of today’s celebration, the Holy Father at the end of Wednesday’s general audience said that “It is everyone’s duty to protect children.” He said all children must be protected from abuse in all its forms “particularly from the shackles of slavery and the brutality of forced military service.”
“I hope the international community shall be vigilant over the living conditions of children, especially where they are exposed to recruitment by armed groups; I also hope the international community will help families ensure every child the right to schooling and a wholesome upbringing.”
Today’s celebration has been variously called “Children’s Day or “Children’s Rights Day.” The UN International Convention for Children’s Rights was approved on November 20th 1989.
We Filipinos have a special reason to heed Pope Francis’ call for the protection of children. Our country is known, aside from all the other evil names that became more pronounced during the years of BS Aquino’s presidency, as “The world’s pedophilia capital.” Pedophiles from all countries come to the Philippines to indulge in their sick lusts.
This is mainly because of the extreme poverty of more than half of our population. But there is another cause. In our country, the age of sexual consent is 12 years old!
The leading Anti-Child Abuse Crusader, Fr. Shay Cullen, who is our columnist, and who, with his Preda Foundation has saved thousands of children from slavers and abusive situations, is campaigning to change our laws.
He wishes the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 and the Penal Code to be amended and the age of consent set to the older age of “no less than 17.”
He says: “In Filipino culture and custom the lack of education, awareness and knowledge of their rights and the sexualization of children in movies and stage shows in the media and on the Internet makes children very vulnerable. It is made to appear as normal and makes young people very vulnerable to being abused. They are then pressured and forced to say they consented. There is a strong movement starting to have it changed. It ought to be an issue in the coming elections.
“According to our laws, adults can have sex with 12 year- olds, this is the way it is. All the abuser has to do is to claim it was without violence and with the consent of the child. Some judges could dismiss a case on that ground. But the vast majority of Filipinos surely say no, this is not right. But why has the law not changed?
“For most Filipinos that is abhorrent and disgusting and the vast majority hold firmly that their child of twelve or older can never freely give her or his consent with clear knowledge and full understanding of what will be done to her or him.
“All Filipinos of intelligence and moral conscience and above all the Church must take a stand on this and confront it and campaign to repeal and amend that section in the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 and the Penal Code while it is somewhat off-set by the stricter law protecting children RA 7610.”