‘A ruling for rapists,’ Gabriela on SC ruling

April 5, 2023

Clarice Palce, Gabriela’s secretary general. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat)


“Rape is rape. Rape is indignity. No matter the nature or specifics, rape is a violation of a person’s humanity.”


MANILA – Progressive women’s group Gabriela slammed the recent Supreme Court ruling on the criminal act of rape, calling it a ruling for rapists, not victims.

On March 30, the SC released its decision affirming the conviction of a certain Efren Agao for statutory rape. In this decision, the SC also put clarifications on when rape is committed as a crime through penile penetration.

The SC ruled that the “mere introduction, however slight, into the cleft of the labia majora by a penis that is capable of penetration, regardless of whether such penile penetration is thereafter fully achieved, consummates the crime of rape.”

The SC also clarified that “the ‘mere touch’ of the penis on the labia majora legally contemplates not mere surface touch or skin contact, but the slightest penetration of the vulval or pudendal cleft, however minimum in degree.”

Gabriela frowned upon SC’s views.

In a statement, Gabriela Secretary General Clarice Palce said, “The dignity of a woman does not rest on a vagina. By creating ‘gradations’ between ‘rape’ and ‘attempted rape’ on account of anatomical thresholds, the Supreme Court is effectively reducing the dignity of women to our body parts.”

“It forgets that whether a woman is forced into acts of vaginal penetration, oral sex, or penetration through foreign objects, the point is that such acts constitute grave violation of the woman’s dignity. Rape is rape. Rape is indignity. No matter the nature or specifics, rape is a violation of a person’s humanity,” she continued.

In the ruling, the external parts of the female genetalia was discussed “in order to categorically delineate for the bench and the bar which physical threshold, when crossed, constitutes rape in the consummated stage.”

The ruling also said, “… for as long as the prosecutorial evidence is able to establish that the penis of the accused penetrated the vulval cleft or the cleft of the labia maiora (i.e., the cleft of the fleshy outer lip of the victim’s vagina), however slight the introduction may be, the commission of rape already crossed the threshold of the attempted stage and into its consummation.”

But Palce said, basing the arguments purely on anatomy poses a danger for rape victims on technical grounds.

She said there are plenty of women who do not possess vaginas as in the case of transgender women, women with undeveloped genitals, intersex women, and many more who may face the realities of sexual violence but who clearly would not even be considered rape victims under the SC ruling.

“The Supreme Court’s decision reeks of the complete inability to grasp what makes rape a heinous crime—something that no amount of overdetailing on the nature of the act based on body parts and crass anatomy will ever capture,” Palce said.

Palce also reminded the SC that in the Philippines, rape victims struggle to have the courage to speak up and seek justice.

With this ruling, she said, “women would now have the added burden of very specifically demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that her rapist penetrated ‘into her labia minora’ for the court to consider it to be rape.”

“We have no doubts that there would be even more rape victims forced into silence following this decision. Simply and frankly worded, this is a ruling that favors only perpetrators, not rape victims,” Palce said.

‘Crime against dignity’

For Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the SC ruling downplays the crime of rape.

“With much respect, I fail to see why there is a necessity to discuss the various degrees of penetration in the guise of clarifying the ‘perceived uncertainty’ in the penalties for rape. Regretfully, the discussion regarding the anatomy of the vagina and its relation to penetration reverses established progressive doctrine, downplays the crime of rape, and makes invisible the sordid violation of the dignity of the victim,” Leonen said in his dissenting opinion.

He said that rape is no longer a crime against chastity but a “crime against the dignity of a human being.”

Leonen said that to punish rape in degrees disregards the rape victims’ experiences, trauma and violation of her dignity which the law punishes. He pointed out that the trauma that comes from rape is not experienced in degrees as “the woman and girl victim views the violation as a whole.”

“There is no such thing as attempted rape. All rape is rape. All rape violates dignity. The finer points of the parts of the vagina touched by the penis is irrelevant,” Leonen said.

“Continued male violence in our patriarchy hides within subtle legal distinctions which burden the victim disproportionately. In this case, the ponencia uses an amorphous yet misguided application of the rights of the accused without understanding the full patriarchal concept of rape. It, unfortunately, has not gone beyond rape as a protection of chivalry’s male roles and stature vis-a-vis female,” Leonen added.

Leonen also said that the ruling is not a progressive step but “will license once more the kind of masculinity that has cheapened women to sexual objects whose value is reduced to their vagina and the pleasure men derive from them.”

He urged the SC not to do the unnecessary: “‘clarify’ the doctrine when it is not needed and, in the process, contribute to the suffering of more women and girl victims.”

“I urge for the reconsideration of this further objectivization of women. We must reconsider for the sake of our wives, our daughters, and our granddaughters,” Leonen added.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa. It was concurred by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, Associate Justices Ramon Paul Hernando, Rodil Zalameda, Mario Lopez, Samuel Gaerlan, Ricardo Rosario, Japar Dimaampao, Jose Midas Marquez and Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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