According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “bodily autonomy” refers to women’s right to make independent decisions involving their bodies, ranging from reproductive health, when to have sex, and when to have children.
So, where do women in the Philippines stand when it comes to this critical decision?
Last May 19, 2021. UNPFA and the Philippine Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) released the 2021 State of World Population (SoWP) focusing on bodily autonomy. The study, titled “My Body is My Own: Claiming the Right to Autonomy and Self-Determination,” gathered data in 104 countries, including the Philippines.
Compared to countries in Africa, South America, and South Asia, the Philippines and countries in neighboring East and South East Asia show that a higher percentage of women aged 15 to 49 who make their own decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
88% say they have the power to say no to sex
94% say they have the power to decide on contraception
97% say they have the power to decide on healthcare
Overall, 81% of Filipino women can make their own decision on these three aspects. However, the data from all countries showed “only 55 per cent of women have the power to make their own decisions about their bodies.”
In countries like Mali, Niger, and Senegal, more than 90 percent of women are deprived of their bodily autonomy. Factors like community, health systems, individual powers, interpersonal (i.e., the position of partner, extended family), and socio-economic are all determinants of a woman’s decision-making power.
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According to UNFPA, only women who make their own decisions in all three areas are considered to have autonomy in reproductive health decision-making and be empowered to exercise their reproductive rights.
While the numbers for the Philippines are encouraging, it is not a reason to relax but work on the 19% who are powerless.
“What is clear from the data,” the study says, “women are not fully in control of their bodies” and that this “should be a wake-up call to governments, policymakers and development institutions.”