The cultural anatomy of RH bill-A A +A
Monday, June 25, 2012
SINCE its conception as House Bill 4224 or an Act providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development during the 15th congress, the so-called “RH Bill” has been a topic among Filipinos that is approached with much controversy. It was so polemical that it has divided the nation at proximate proportions into Pro and Anti - RH bill.
Anthropologically speaking, the nature of the topic itself or the RH bill has so many implications as far as culture is concerned. And this may explain among the many reasons why the resolution on the said bill is tardy.
According to social scientists, culture is the expression or subtotal of man’s behavior. They maintain that it is a design for living that guides the behaviors of members of the society.
Furthermore, culture, experts claim, has both tangible and intangible components.
Tangible components are those that are palpable or that are material in nature like the acceptable manner of clothing, the gadgets, computers and technology people of a society use, the architecture of homes, buildings, among others.
On the other hand, intangible components are those that are non-material in nature that include the words people use, the habits they follow, the ideas, customs, values and behaviors that they strive to conform in the society where they live in.
In sum, culture defines the social norms that serve as ideal models of behaviors that tell an individual what is appropriate or inappropriate. It is the total way of life. It works as a regulatory mechanism that sets the society’s standards of propriety, morality, ethics and legality. Any violations of the norms will result in a strong disapproval and severe punishments.
The Philippines, being the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, has a long established conservative culture to the extent that any topic relating to sexuality is considered taboo. This may explain, at least in my personal assumption, why there are people who oppose the enactment into law of the RH bill no matter how scientific the advantages of such a would-be law has been presented.
Anthropologists share that there are at least five theories about culture. I suggest that lawmakers may want to consider them in their understanding the division between the pros and antis RH bill.
First, culture is learned. The habits, behaviors, belief systems of a person are learned primarily through the parents or primary caregiver. A person born and raised in a conservative family will learn the ways of living a conservative life by their parents and ancestors.
Another example would be an Anti-RH bill parent of a child would naturally teach or influence his child of the negativity of the said bill.
Second, culture is shared by and transmitted among the members of a social group. In this process, the common culture that is shared by the members of a society will prevail as the dominant culture representative of such a society. Let us say for example in the Philippines where majority of the citizenry are still conservative in thinking. Naturally, the larger proportion of people sharing this culture will mirror the kind of society they live in and thus, our country becomes or is identified as a conservative one.
Third, culture is adaptive. By this, anthropologists mean that culture is dynamic and adjusts to the needs of the society in terms of the physical environment and bio-social environment. Customs that derive benefits for the society are generally adapted. Else, the culture is said to be maladaptive. For example, if RH bill, when enacted into law, will solve issues pertaining to poverty, economic crises and population, then generally it will be adapted easily by the people.
On the contrary, if there are no actual benefits derived from the said would-be law, yet it has been acculturated by the society, then such a culture is said to be maladaptive. Conversely when there is an actual benefit that can be derived yet no changes has been made for the realization of the gains, then such a culture is also said to be maladaptive.
Fourth, culture is integrated. Anthropologists claim that culture and its elements are consistent and are not mutually exclusive and thus it affects all institutions of the society at once.
Going back to RH bill, such an issue does not just concern the polity or religion but rather it also involves other social institutions like the family, the economy and health sector. If lawmakers want to approve or disapprove the RH bill, they must understand that either way, their decision will affect these other social institutions or sectors as they are all integrated together, creating a domino-like effect.
Fifth, culture is always changing. If one may notice, the belief systems in the past, especially superstitions, are no longer common in the present. Some may have been modified, while others have been completely eradicated. Social scientists claim that since culture is a mental abstraction of man, the latter creates, discovers, and invents new ways of doing things that if proven to be beneficial, will replace the old familiar ways creating a new culture. Example, in the 80’s and earlier on, most, if not all, Filipino parents do not discuss matters relating to sex to their children as it had been very effective as a social regulation in keeping their children from engaging into premarital sex and experimentation that would lead teen and unwanted pregnancies at that time. If such custom of conservatism is no longer effective in regulating the behaviors of our teens today, then by this theory or assumption, such a culture will have to be modified to answer to the emerging needs of the present time.
If lawmakers want to make grand changes -- including the passing of the RH bill -- that involves the society, they should not forget to deal with the culture first above anything else.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 26, 2012.