SOME figures and indicators would suffice the claim that young Filipinos aged 15-24 years old have already experienced pre-marital sex. One is the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS) conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) and the Demographic Research and Development Foundation, which shows that from 23 percent in 2013, the number of Filipinos aged 15-24 who have sexual encounters has increased to 32 percent in 2013.
Based on the same study, Central Luzon ranks second in terms of the number of teens who are sexually experienced, and the region also ranks second in terms of the number of youth who have engaged in early sexual encounters. The most distressing case of pregnancy does not even involve a teenager but a nine-year-old girl from Bulacan who got pregnant in 2017.
The latest figures show that in 2017, there are 32,984 cases of teenage pregnancy among 10-19-year-old adolescents with Bulacan having the highest number at 11,625 cases. Other statistical data show that nine percent of women aged 15-19 have begun childbearing. In addition to this data, the 2013 Functional Literacy, Education, and Mass Media Survey (Flemms) cites early marriage as one of the top reasons for students dropping out of school.
There are quite many reasons that tend to explain why the cases of teen pregnancy have continuously increased for the past decades. According to "Youth Problems in the Philippines," the cause of teen pregnancy include these reasons: one, having sex before 20 is considered the "in" thing; teenage psychology which takes into consideration the transition from childhood and peer pressure; lack of sexual education; lack of attention and affection from family; lack of parental supervision; overprotection of parents; and the influences from social media.
Many advocates believe that while certain efforts can be made to address the various causes mentioned above, sexuality education that can be implemented in schools may be the key to curbing the rise of teenage pregnancy. The Department of Education, through DepEd Order 31 s. 2018 entitled "Policy Guidelines on the Implementation of the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)" which aims to enhance the "holistic wellness of the Filipino adolescents and effectively address their needs for health and protection."
DepEd further said that recognizing the roles and responsibilities of the school system to "provide learners their right to good health, the policy shall establish a common understanding of CSE key concepts and messages and ensure a clear implementation of CSE protocols in all public and private elementary, junior and senior high schools, learning centers for Special Education (Sped) and Alternative Learning System (ALS), and laboratory schools of state and local universities and colleges (SUCs/LUCs)."
In August of this year, DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH) convened a summit to discuss and understand the education, health, and development dimensions of early pregnancy in forging multi-stakeholder consensus on ways forward. The summit entitled "Kapit-kamay: Empowering the Youth to Make Informed Choices" aimed to share information and data on early pregnancy, and understand its education, health, and development dimensions; understand the risks and contributory factors to early pregnancy; identify common ground and existing interventions; and formulate platforms or movement with diverse identities for stakeholders to continue policy advocacy and program implementation to address the concern. The participants of the event are youth, program implementers, and duty bearers.
A few days ago, Ryan Enriquez, National Youth Commission (NYC) chairman proposed the measure on having separate class sections for female and male students in Grades 7 to 12 to curb the rising number of teen pregnancies and HIV cases involving 15 to 30-year-olds.
For me, this may not be the best possible option to address this problem. I take the stand with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education (CBCP ECCCE) Chairman Bishop Roberto Mallari, who said that "the proposed creation of separate sections for male and females students in schools cannot solve social problems. There is no research that supports this" and that the "lack of thoughtful regard to values and formation at home, in communities, and in some cases, in some classrooms" is, in fact, the most plausible cause of rising incidences of teen pregnancy.
The youth of today are indeed different from the other generations. They are faced with a multitude of choices that may highly affect their overall well-being and development as an individual. While we can always aim for prevention as the best cure to this social dilemma, what we can do is not to restrict them in socializing and interacting with those of the opposite sex, but to prepare them to make wise decisions for themselves. We can give them a picture of what is in store for them should they involve themselves in early sexual encounters, and I think, our youth being empowered with the right information can always choose what is best for them.