Posted on 2017/10/23

Amid rising tide of sexual harassment on women in the workplace, gender advocates are still buoyant. Lebanon repealed last month article 528 of its penal code, in place since 1940, that allowed rape offenders avoid jail time by marrying their victims. Lebanon is the latest entrant among two other Arab countries – Tunisia and Jordan – to have struck down “marry the rapist” law from their legal regime that has vestiges in colonial past, “in an attempt to normalize sexual acts by categorizing them within the institution of marriage,” said UNDispatch. Considered a global epidemic, rape is legally permissible in some other states: 10 countries may exempt a perpetrator from punishment upon reaching a ‘settlement’ with the victim and her family, and another 10 countries expressly allow rape of woman or girl by her husband, according international NGO, Equality Now. It is perplexing how Philippines, a Catholic-dominated country and a gender champion in Asia for three years in a row, is able to remain subscribed to a penal law that grants escape route to rape offenders from punishment.

Until 1997, rape was designated as crime against chastity in Philippines since 1935, punishable when a man is “having carnal knowledge of a woman,” according to article 335 of Revised Penal Code. The law would exempt husbands from marital rape, which many feminists consider repulsive to gender equality. While article 335 made no mention of marriage as a defense to extinguish criminal liability, Supreme Court decisions, which form part of the laws of land, have carved a special privilege for male offenders out of the law to insulate them from jail time. In the vintage case of People vs. Jerry C. Velasco, G.R. No L-28081 (1974), the perpetrator, sentenced by trial court to life imprisonment, avoided serving major portion of his jail sentence following his subsequent marriage to victim. More than three decades later, the High Court in People vs. Ronnie de Guzman, G.R. No. 185843 (2010) reiterated its commitment to the sanctity of marriage and value of family cohesion when it released the offender from prison, convicted of two counts of rape, following his marriage to complainant. Other than the publicly accessible Court decision, no data is available to prove whether marriage is for the best interests of rape victims. Some western scholars may find the decisions of Court odd, but for a country colonized by Spain for more than three centuries, letting go of colonial past that measured family honor largely on the moral standing of women, is a lingering concern.

The enactment of Republic Act No. 8353 otherwise known as the Anti-Rape Law in September 1997 was hailed by many as equalizer of gender imbalance. The law introduced novel changes, among others: reclassification of rape as a crime against person, expanded the definition of offender to any person regardless of gender. If rape marital rape was not a crime, this time it is a serious offense which carries a penalty of imprisonment for life. The first marital rape case that reached the Supreme Court came from Cagayan de Oro City. In People vs. Jumawan, G.R. No. 187495 (2014), the Court upheld the conviction of husband for two counts rape and ruled that, “[h]usbands do not have property rights over their wives’ bodies. Sexual intercourse, albeit within the realm of marriage, if not consensual, is rape.” What vexes, though, for many rights advocates about this new law is a portion of article 266-C which states, “subsequent valid marriage between the offended party shall extinguish the criminal action or the penalty imposed…” Since existing jurisprudence has already recognized the so-called marry the rapist arrangement, it is significant to question whether it was necessary for Congress to legislate similar arrangement. The Supreme Court’s propensity to flip-flop on contentious issues may have prompted Congress to assert its political power to establish permanency in the observance of criminal laws.

For all its noble purpose, article 266-C is unlikely the antidote of alarming rape cases in the country, at the present rate a woman or child is raped every 53 minutes, according to Center for Women’s Resources as reported by Philippine Star. On the contrary, the law encourages impunity with badges of government authority. Some practicing lawyers in the provinces, particularly in Mindanao, know well that most rape victims who come from underserved communities accept marriage proposal from perpetrators out of economic necessity and stability of community. Confronted with the unwelcome environment of legal system as well as socio-economic pressure, rape victims cannot be blamed for signing marriage contract with their predators. While it is true that institutional and policy reforms are appropriate strategies to reducing gender gaps, the same must be complemented with equally aggressive approach to changing traditional values and outmoded beliefs that impede the advancement of genuine gender equality. This is pervasive in most Muslim majority countries where women continue to struggle for recognition of their basic rights.

Steeped in Islamic tradition, it was not easy for the three Arab countries to delete the “marry the rapist law” from their statute books. At the early stage of campaign, proponents had to endure fierce resistance not only from political leaders but also from the powerful conservative religious clerics. As reported, ongoing initiatives are taking place across the globe particularly in Muslim majority countries to completely remove the “marry the rapist law.” This is a positive sign, but not enough. Sometimes recourse to parliament is not always easy; some gatekeepers are looking for every opportunity to block any measure that challenges patriarchal culture. Take the case of Malaysia. A parliament member and former sharia judge made headlines when he said, “Perhaps through marriage they can lead a healthier, better life. And the person who was raped does not necessarily have a bleak future. She will have a husband, at least, and this could serve as a remedy to growing social problems,” It is deplorable that some political leaders are not receptive to change and cannot distinguish what is fundamental from ordinary rights. Any law that allows male offenders to avoid jail term by marrying the victim is an affront to fundamental rights of women. If misogynists consider men as superior being, “macho” is often the reference, why do they embrace “marry the rapist law”? It is time to amend Philippines’ article 266-C of Anti-Rape Law, and give justice to Mao Zedong’ “women hold up half the sky.”

*The views in this article are purely personal and do not represent the policies or views of author’s employer or institution where he is presently connected.


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Liceo Legal Aid Center (LiLAC) doing business under the name and style of Center for Alternative Lawyering of Liceo is the legal aid center of Liceo de Cagayan University, a privately owned university based in Cagayan de oro City. The group is composed of law students, alumni of the College of Law of the University, and lawyers who are passionate in the practice of alternative lawyering. LiLAC is guided by its vision of a holistic formation of law students committed to the transformation of society by promoting justice, empowerment, unity and peace, through helping the marginalized sector of the depressed areas here in Mindanao, in the Philippines and in the world. While the group was registered only this year with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it has been providing services to marginalized communities in partnership with NGOs for more than 8 years now. LiLAC has more than 50 members, 15 of whom are taking the active role of running the groups activities.

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The Mindanao State University Legal Aid Clinic or Mindanao SULAC for brevity, is the Legal Aid Clinic of Mindanao State University College of law. It is the first and currently the only one of its kind to be established in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It strives to cater the legal needs of the underprivileged and/or indigent clients of the Region and to help promote the proper administration of justice as a key to lasting peace in the region and in the country as a whole.

Office Address: 1F MSU College of Law Bldg.,
MSU Main Campus, Marawi City 9700 Philippines
Contact details:
Email: mindanaosulac@gmail.com
Mobile No.: (+63) 907 336 7762



The Notre Dame university is a Catholic Institution in Cotabato City run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and member of the Notre Dame Educational Association Philippines.The Notre Dame University Legal Aid Center started sometime in 2009. Its members are the officially enrolled students of NDU-College of Law.

The following are the official pages and e-mail address of the group:
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email: ndulac@gmail.com


The Palawan Cradle of Rights is a unified composition of law students from Palawan State university school of Law, established last August 26, 2013 after the culminating activity of the Basic Orientation Seminar by the US Embassy in partnership with the MYVC.

Through our linkages and with the help of the different Government and Non-government organizations we aim to provide free access to people who need legal assistance.


The University of Mindanao Legal Aid Network (ULAN) is a non-stock, non-profit, and service institution of the University of Mindanao. As a service institution, it provides legal assistance, advocates human rights and social justice, and facilitates the formation of law students for alternative lawyering. It consists of law students and alumni of the College of Legal Education of the University of Mindanao committed to provide an adequate and greater access to justice of the community through its programs.


The CENTRO ADVOCACIA LEGAL is organized exclusively for charitable, socio-cultural and educational purposes, more specifically to serve the needs of the marginalized communities specifically children and youth and the minorities in Zamboanga City through Legal Aid Assistance and Human Rights Based Advocacies.