Everywhere in Asia, the number of teen mothers has been decreasing, according to the 2015 report from the United Nations (UN). Our country, however, is an exception. Not only is teen pregnancy on the rise, but there is also an alarming number of Filipino girls in the tween stage who are becoming mothers.
Based on the registered birth records from the Civil Regulation Service, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that 151 babies were born to Filipino girls as young as 9 years old from 2011 to 2014. To roughly translate, that is at least 40 babies born to 10-year-olds every year in the past three years.
In 2011, 15 children were born to 10-year-old girls. The next year, the number more than doubled to 43 babies born to mothers at such a young age. The years 2013 and 2014 recorded 50 and 43 infants, respectively, born to mothers who are practically just kids themselves.
Juan Antonio Perez III, executive director of the Commission on Population, presented the statistics at a forum held at the University of the Philippines, in Diliman, Quezon City and reported on ABS-CBN News. The conference aimed to help policy managers and the public to understand the sexual and non-sexual behaviors of the millennials, and come up with more efficient interventions.
The statistics do not get better for older girls. In the year 2011 alone, 31 babies were born to 11-year-olds, and 43 children were born to 12-year-olds. In the same year, 152 infants were born to 13-year-old girls while 1,140 children were born to 14-year-old moms.
Perez said, "Removing the births from moms ages 19 [for the period of 2011 to 2014], we still have 130,000 families led by minors being created every year."
The report said it was not clear if all these young moms were victims of rape and abuse. However, according to the Perez, some of these young girls admitted that an "element of force" was a factor in their first sexual encounter, and the pregnancy was unplanned.
According to the 2013 nationwide Youth Adult Fertility and Sexuality (YAFS) study, early sexual activity among kids younger than 18 is rising, from 12.9 percent in 1994 to 16.3 percent in 2002 to 23.4 percent in 2013 for both males and females. Many of them had their first sexual initiation in elementary-school-age (30 percent) compared to those in college (16.9 percent).
It is consistent with the findings from the latest national survey on Pinoy youth and sexual and non-sexual risk behaviors conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) and the Demographic Research and Development Foundation (DRDF). The survey reports more young Filipinos aged 15 to 24 are engaging in premarital sex, and 78% of these first sexual encounters did not have any form of protective contraception, which indicates higher risks of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.
“Clearly, what we see here is not only the increasing level of premarital sexual engagement of young people but that it has also evolved into other forms of sexual activities. The more worrisome though is the fact that most of these activities go unprotected,” Prof. Maria Paz Marquez, one of the authors of the study said in a statement.
The YAFS study points to the pornographic material as the main culprit for exposing the youth, mostly males, to sex early, as technology and the Internet made these sexually explicit materials easier to access. The study found young kids who were exposure to the Internet early were also more likely to initiate sex, and those who had access to the World Wide Web and who regularly drink alcohol at a younger age were more likely to engage in early sex, the Inquirerreports.
According to The Standard, the NCR had the highest prevalence of premarital sex at 40.9 percent. Nearly half of those, 47.4 percent, had read pornographic materials 33.4 percent had visited sexually explicit websites, and 29.5 percent had shared sexually explicit videos through the Internet or mobile phones.
These findings prove why Filipinos need better reproductive health programs tailored specifically for the needs of the young adults. More than ever, it’s crucial to educate the youth about safe sex, and it should cover new media, such as the Internet because it’s where they usually learn about sex. And we know it is a tough conversation, but sex education should start with the parents at home.