The Philippines has officially raised the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s office said he had signed a bill into law on Monday March 6.
Previously, the Philippines had one of the world’s lowest minimum ages of sexual consent, behind Nigeria’s age of 11, according to UNICEF.
According to a study in 2015 by UNICEF and the local non-profit Center of Women’s Resources, seven out of 10 rape victims in the Philippines were children.
The study found that every one in five children aged between 13 and 17 had reported experiencing sexual violence and that perpetrators were often family members.
About 43% of children aged between 13 and 24 who had engaged in sexual intercourse also reported to have experienced pregnancy, with more than half of the pregnancies occurring when they were 15 to 19 years old.
It also revealed that more boys than girls reported experiencing sexual violence.
The new law, which is gender neutral, states that any adult who engages in sexual contact with anyone under the age of 16 is committing statutory rape.
The exemptions are when the age difference between the two parties is three years or less and the sex was proven to be consensual, not abusive or exploitative, according to Reuters.
However, the exemption does not apply if one of the people involved is aged under 13.
UNICEF welcomed the move in a statement, saying it was an “essential step towards fulfilling children’s rights to protection from sexual violence, abuse and exploitation, regardless of their sex, orientation and gender identity and expression.”