The country has been singled out. The United Nations Population Fund (formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities or UNPFA) raised an alarming discovery: Teen pregnancy cases are declining in Asia--but not in the Philippines.
The 2015 report, entitled "Sexual and Reproductive Health of Young People in Asia and the Pacific: A Review of Issues, Policies and Programmes," pooled data from 32 countries in Asia and showed that the Philippines is the only country that saw the rate of teen pregnancy rise in the last two decades.
Country representative Klaus Beck revealed that the results show one in 10 Filipino girls, from ages 15 to 19--about 10 percent of the Filipino population of 100 million--have already given birth. May-I Fabros of the Philippine Commission on Women (PWC) and the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) agreed with the findings, disclosing to CNN Philippines that one teenage girl of said age range gives birth every two and a half minutes in the Philippines.
The report found that 15 percent of adolescent girls already had sex before the age of 15. But what is alarming is it is forced first sex--at 15 years, these girls "often lack the knowledge and skills to be able to negotiate consensual sex and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse." The report also cites a study in the Philippines that showed around 50 percent of men who have sex with men reported that their first sexual encounter with a man was forced.
The pressure of having sex also increases when teenagers perceive that a majority of their friends or peers are already doing it. Cultural influences come into play as well; young men see their first sexual intercourse as a passage to manhood while some women view sex as a way of expressing love and affection.
Other factors that contribute to teenage sex include high alcohol consumption, lack of parental support, and religious taboos when it comes to sexual health services. There is also the negative stigma that comes with buying condoms or pills. The report indicates that "young people are much less likely to use condoms with romantic partners, as condoms imply promiscuity or unfaithfulness that violates their notions of trust and love."
There is a more permissive attitude now as well towards dating and premarital sex. A possible culprit: a teen's easy access to information via the internet and social media.
Poverty is also one reason why teens lack proper reproductive health education. "Teen pregnancy is not the source of poverty, neither source of problems but a symptom of the problematic health system and community health structure that we have," Fabros said. The report stressed that poor sexual and reproductive health not only affects the youth physically but also socio-economically.
The above factors are now putting more Filipino teenagers at risk for early and unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion practices, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). UNPFA's Asia-Pacific regional director Yoriko Tasukawa calls for better programs and laws on sexual and reproductive health to keep up with the changing attitudes towards sex and relationships.
“We need to abandon once and for all the idea that leaving young people in ignorance is going to stop them from having sex or that talking about it is going to make them have sex," Yasukasawa told GMA News. She said that giving the youth access to proper sexual education is "the only way to help young people make responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health."
Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia told Yahoo News that the new administration under President Rodrigo Duterte promises to fully implement the reproductive health law. This will guarantee proper sexual education, access to different methods of contraception, and maternal care. Currently, the implementation of the reproductive health bill has been derailed by budget cuts. Pernia added that the government aims to reduce poverty by reducing the number of children among the lower class citizens.
Worth noting: The report stressed the importance of family support in delaying sex. Studies from India,Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines have suggested that adolescent girls’ "connectedness to parents, particularly their mothers, and a family environment that supports gender equality are associated with delayed first sex among girls."