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The forbidden games children play

June 20, 2007 9:44pm
The rush of shoppers and vendors doesn’t bother a group of children, aged between five and eight years old, who seem to enjoy their own world along the railway tracks in the Divisoria district of Manila. In one corner, a seven-year-old boy is lying on top of a young girl in a simulated sex act.

The scene did not escape Mary Joan Guan, executive director of the Center for Women’s Resources. Guan called the boy’s attention. The boy scratched his head: "Ate, naglalaro lang po kami (Ma’am, we are just playing)."

Children, especially boys as young as five years old, are becoming familiar with sex and the sexual act, Guan said. "Media have so much to do with this," she said.

Among those blamed by Guan are pornographic Web sites on the Internet, tabloids showing naked men and women and sometimes even sexual acts, noontime television shows that feature barely dressed women, bootleg pornographic movies, and even hentai (Japanese word that means perverted) cartoons.

Guan also blamed advertisers, especially cigarette and liquor companies that feature women as “sex objects."

Danger lurking

Leaving children to deal with sensitive materials can be dangerous, Guan said. She recalled the case of a three-year-old girl who suffered trauma after playing with a 12-year-old male cousin who playfully attempted to burn the girl’s sex organ. When psychologists tried to help the boy, who was diagnosed to be “disturbed," the boy’s mother refused to let her son undergo therapy.

“He is a potential rapist," Guan said.

Chief Superintendent Yolanda Tanigue, head of the Women and Children Concerns Division of the Philippine National Police, said police records show that children are not only victims of sexual assault, but have become perpetrators themselves.

Police records show that rape constitutes more than 40 percent of child abuse cases while incestuous rape, attempted rape and acts of lasciviousness, account for about 80 percent of crimes against children.

In 2006, a total of 1,699 child-rape cases were registered: 193 incestuous rape cases; 118 cases of attempted rape; and 591 cases of acts of lasciviousness. The figures were relatively lower compared to the 2005 record when 2,371 child-rape cases were registered: 191 incestuous rape cases; 209 cases of attempted rape; and 752 cases of acts of lasciviousness.

Rape ranks third among the highest number of cases filed against youth offenders from January to September 2006, next to theft and illegal use of solvent. During the same period, 151 rape cases involving minors as perpetrators were registered, 12 for attempted rape, and 37 for acts of lasciviousness.

About the same number were filed in 2005 – 200 for rape, 12 for attempted rape and 33 for acts of lasciviousness.

Alarming

The victims and perpetrators are getting younger, said Tanigue, adding that the phenomenon is “alarming." She said victims are as young as a few months old while perpetrators are sometimes just six years old.

Tanigue recounted the case of a seven-year-old boy who was charged with multiple cases of rape after the mother of the six-year-old victim caught the children having sex while watching a pornographic movie.

The boy told the police that he and the girl were just playing bahay-bahayan after watching the video. The boy also admitted having sex with the girl many times already.

The police turned their attention to the parents who were found negligent. Cases of gross negligence were later filed against the children’s parents.

Under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, children under the age of 15 cannot be charged with a crime. They will only be put under an intervention program aimed at addressing issues that caused the felony.

Children above 15 but are below 18 years old may have to face trial in court if the prosecution proves that the accused acted with discernment in committing an offense.

Children below 18 years old are not supposed to be detained in jails with adults.

The Molave Youth Home in Quezon City is one of the few rehabilitation centers in the country for children in conflict with the law. It currently houses 84 inmates, four of whom face rape charges, while most are accused of committing crimes against property.

Maribel Cayco, head of the Residential and Rehabilitation Division of Quezon City’s Social Services Development department, said the children detainees go through an intervention program, which includes counseling, skills training, education and activities to enhance the child’s well-being.

Social workers also assess if parents of child offenders are capable of taking care of their children. “If, for example, our findings show that the minor will be at risk when he is with her family, then we recommend that he be put in a safe place away from his family," said Cayco.

Blaming the parents

Village chief Ronnie Sicat of Barangay Central in Quezon City said he blames parents for their failure to supervise the children.

After 13 years as a village official Sicat said he has handled various cases of sexual assaults committed by children. He said most of the offenders come from large or extended families in urban poor areas, living and sleeping together in shanties.

“Children wake up in the middle of the night and see their parents having sex," said Sicat, adding that “responsible parents" should explain to children the situation.

Guan said children from five to twelve years old are curios. “They see, hear and feel certain things, and want answers to their questions," she said. From thirteen to seventeen years old, children move to the stage of exploration. “They not only question, but do acts to discover things on their own," Guan said.

“A responsible parent must carefully provide answers and explanation when a child starts asking questions," Guan said. She said sex must not be explained by using metaphors like birds, bees or flowers, but must be taught like a subject in schools.

“The problem is that sex is taboo in typical Filipino family discussions with children. When a child asks about it, most parents react violently, some would even thwack a child’s mouth," Guan said.

Sex education is necessary for children. Guan said it is time that Filipinos open their minds to sex education.

Sicat said village officials provide counseling services to parents of child victims and offenders, “but these are not enough."

“There are many parents who are simply irresponsible, so we go to the kids directly," Sicat said.

The Department of Education tried to introduce sex education in the high school curriculum via the health reproductive program in science and health subjects. It happened during the time of former Education Undersecretary Fe Hidalgo. She said the program was designed to address the rising incidence of unwanted teenage pregnancies among high school students.

Some groups, however, including the Catholic Church, blocked the program, labeling it “immoral." The Education department later stopped the program.

“The objective alone, which is population control, is faulty. It must be premised on relationships and total sexuality because sexuality is a gift from God," says Bishop Pedro Quitorio, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

CBCP particularly resists the introduction of artificial contraceptive methods in the program. The bishops fear that children might misunderstand and engage in pre-marital sex.

Hidalgo, however, said: “We cannot be very conservative. The issue is right before us. We must take actions."

But while the church and the Education department debate on the logic of sex education, children seem to be enjoying the moment, exploring sex like, well, a new toy maybe. - GMANews.TV