Rosario Baluyot took seven months to die.
The internal injuries she received from an alleged rape caused a severe infection in her cervix that eventually led to her death in a Philippines hospital.
Her gravestone at Olongapo, north-west of Manila, states that Rosario was just 11 years old when she died in 1987.
But the lack of a birth certificate — or any proof of her age — was one factor that led the court to acquit the man originally charged and convicted of rape with homicide in a country where the age of consent for sex is 12.
Her case has since become the subject of a documentary novel, titled Rosario is Dead, and helped to pave the way for significant legal reforms in the Philippines, including legislation in 1992 to give stronger protection to children from sexual abuse or exploitation.
But those reforms did not include raising the age of consent, which has remained at 12 since it was enshrined in a penal code that was first enacted in the Philippines in 1930.
That could be set to change now, as draft legislation proposes raising the age of consent to 16.
Currently, onus on prosecution to prove child was under 12
Heinrich Stefan Ritter, an Austrian doctor, was initially convicted of Rosario’s ‘rape with homicide’. He was ordered to pay ‘moral and exemplary damages’ to her family, and immediately deported and banned from returning.
In his appeal, the defence counsel for Dr Ritter argued that Rosario was 13 — above the age of consent — and that as a child-prostitute who lived on the street, she had willingly submitted to his sexual advances in exchange for money.
In most countries, sexual relations with a 13-year old would automatically amount to statutory rape.
But not in the Philippines, where an adult can legally have sexual relations with a child as young as 12 and argue that it was consensual.
It is the lowest age of consent in Asia, and the second-lowest in the world after Nigeria where it’s 11 — though some African or Middle Eastern countries have no age of consent, but ban sex outside of marriage.
In the case of Rosario, the Philippines Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the onus fell on the prosecution to prove that she was under 12 at the time of the alleged rape.
And they found that ultimately it had failed to do so.
He was acquitted of rape and freed.
Raising the age of consent from 12 to 16
But now, 33 years after Rosario’s death, Philippine politicians are finally preparing to pass new legislation to raise the age of consent from 12 to 16.
“This law reform is particularly urgent because the Philippines has such a high prevalence of violence against children,” chief of child protection at the UN children’s agency UNICEF Patrizia Benvenuti said.
“UNICEF and the child rights community have lobbied and campaigned actively for many years on this issue.”
The proposed legislation — which is almost certain to pass after it goes before a bicameral sitting of Congress in November — will ensure any adult who has sexual relations with a child under 16 would automatically be guilty of rape.
They can no longer argue the child was a willing partner.
The legislation will also remove marriage as an exemption for those perpetrators who later marry their victims.
And it will include a ‘sweetheart clause’ that removes criminal liability for those who have sex with an underage child if their age difference is between two and four years.
Bernadette Madrid, director of the Philippines’ Child Protection Unit, said the new law will inevitably help to lower the incidence of sexual abuse against children.
“They’ve done studies on the age of statutory rape and found that per age that you increase, you decrease the number of sexual abuse,” she said.
“So there’s a relationship between the higher age and the greater decrease in rape.”
Many rape victims are boys
The statistics on child rape and sexual abuse in the Philippines are staggering.
On average, a woman or child is raped almost every hour, according to the Centre for Women’s Resources. Around seven in 10 victims are children.
A national study on violence against children in 2015 revealed that most child rapes occur in the home and that the most common perpetrators are family members — including the father, brother and cousins.
“Economic status has something to do with it,” Nenita Dalde from the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation said.
Many, if not most, rape victims are boys. The national study found one in five children, aged 13 to 17, had experienced sexual violence.
But the figures were higher for boys at 24.5 per cent than girls at 18.2 per cent.
Until now, children’s rights groups say perpetrators of sexual assault against boys are given much lesser sentences than those found guilty of raping girls.
It is hoped the proposed laws will address this issue by giving equal protection to boys under the law.
Perpetrators could now face a maximum 40 years in jail if guilty
The alarming incidence of child rape is also cited as one reason why the Philippines has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in South-East Asia.
In 2017, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that 538 babies were born to teenage mothers every day.
Of those pregnancies, Ms Dalde said many can be attributed to rape or sexual abuse, and most babies were fathered by much older men.
“Evidence points to adult males who prey on younger children, not just girls but boys,” she said.
Importantly, she says raising the age of consent will remove the horrific onus on many child rape victims to testify in court that they did not consent to the sexual exchange.
And those under 12 years old will also no longer be required to testify that they were under the age of consent.
Instead, perpetrators who have sex with a child under 16 will automatically face accusations of rape and could face a maximum sentence of 40 years in jail if found guilty.
The move has been welcomed by children’s rights organisations, who say the new laws, once enacted, will bring the Philippines into line with international standards.
“A 12-year-old is only in sixth grade and has barely gone through puberty,” Ms Benvenuti said.
“There is ample evidence to prove that the rational part of a person’s brain — the part that responds to situations with sound judgement — will not fully develop until age 25.
“So pegging 12 as the age of consent to sex is not consistent with any scientific studies of child and brain development.”