TEEN prostitution is a reality. And reality bites painfully.
A priest was arrested while taking a 13-year-old girl to a motel. The victim claimed he paid her for sex a few months ago, after which he allegedly forbade her, at gunpoint, from “booking” other clients. Also arrested, was her pimp, her 16 year-old friend. This incident calls attention to the complex problem of prostitution among young people, specially among teenage girls. Experts and advocates agree that the situation is further aggravated by information technology which facilitates access and communication between clients and pimps or the prostituted girls themselves.
A few days after the arrest, the suspect was released on bail.
In reaction to this turn of events the National Youth Commission pointed out that "if only our laws recognize teen prostitution as rape, that monsignor who allegedly abused that 13-year girl would have been charged with rape and he would not be out on bail today. Teenage prostitution is an ugly and painful reality that we have to collectively face and address immediately and decisively. Our indignation must translate to actions and measures to stop it.”
To deter adults from engaging in sexual intercourse with minors, the NYC is proposing to raise the coverage of statutory rape from 12 years old, as provided now by law, to 16 years old. The law as it is now sets the age of consent to sex at 12 years old. Raising this age would make having sexual intercourse or having sexual relations with a minor an act of rape, under any circumstance.
Under the present law, child prostitution and other sexual abuse is punishable by reclusion temporal or imprisonment of 12 years and 1 day to 20 years. With the proposal of the NYC, sexual intercourse or sexual relations with a child under 16 years of age, would be penalized as rape, regardless of whether or not there be force, threat, intimidation, deprivation of reason, fraud, or grave abuse of authority. This is punishable by reclusion perpetua or imprisonment of 20 years and 1 day to 40 years, for which bail is discretionary and would depend on whether or not the evidence of guilt is strong.
This measure will also contribute to decreasing the very high incidence of teen pregnancy in the country. We observed that many young girls give birth to children fathered by older men. This is most prevalent among girls from imp families who are impregnated by older men who offer financial stability or an escape from poverty.
Peer educators from impoverished communities report the phenomenon of “sugar-sugar” among teenage girls. This is their term for having sexual relations with older men in exchange for money or other items like clothes, cosmetics, or gadgets. If the coverage of statutory rape is expanded, even these sexual relationships with a semblance of consent will be penalized with the full force of the law.
The NYC is urging both houses of congress to prioritize this proposed measure.
Teen prostitution is a reality. And it should not persist.
Published in the SunStar Baguio newspaper on August 10, 2017.
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