LAST week, Baguio City was again the destination of choice for reproductive health (RH) advocates from all over the country. They returned, exactly a year after, to celebrate the first anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law. The landmark decision was made by the justices during their summer session in the city last year.
RH principal authors like former representatives Edcel Lagman and Risa Hontiveros, former health secretary Espie Cabral, and fellow RH advocates came back to Baguio to celebrate this victory for Filipino women, families and young people. With the theme "Demand RH", the advocates called for the full implementation of the RPRH Law. Simultaneous march parades and events were held in Baguio and other key cities in the country. In the Cordilleras, strategic planning to promote RH in the provinces of Benguet and Ifugao was held. For the young advocates, a social media advocacy training was conducted for the youth leaders of Baguio, Benguet and Ifugao to popularize the benefits of the RPRH Law among their fellow youth.
Among the provisions of RA 10354 upheld by the SC is Section 14 on sexuality and RH education. This section mandates the state to "provide age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education to adolescents which shall be taught by adequately trained teachers".
The National Youth Commission considers Section 14 as the heart of the RPRH Law. It addresses the constant major challenge across generations of preparing young people in the transition to adulthood in relation to sexuality and relationships. Education plays a very crucial role in shaping adolescents' and youth's understanding of their sexual and social identities.
Various studies show that young Filipinos are not receiving adequate preparation which leaves them vulnerable to coercion, abuse, exploitation, early or unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The educational system can bridge the gap in information and communication on sexuality that parents are not normally comfortable discussing with their children. RH education responds to the need to address the lack of accurate information on physical and behavioral aspects of human sexuality. Adolescents and youth need to be informed and equipped with the knowledge and skills to make responsible decisions about sexuality, relationships, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Mandating sexuality and RH education is geared towards utilizing the school setting to provide an important opportunity to reach large numbers of young people. The ultimate goal is to deliver appropriate information and develop responsible behavior before young people become sexually active.
It is high time to end the debate on the relevance and efficacy of sexuality and RH education. Literature is very rich on its positive effect on young people, which includes the development of important life skills.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has identified the impact of sexuality education on delaying sexual initiation, reducing the frequency of unprotected sexual activity, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing the use of protection against unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
We should not deprive our young people knowledge, they have the right to know.