Women rights activist Mary John Mananzan, a Benedictine nun, has joined calls for the implementation of a law that will educate young Filipinos about sex.
Sister Mary John said the provisions of the country’s reproductive health law, which offers “scientific and holistic sex education” to young people, must be put to practice.
The nun said sex education should be given not only to curb teenage pregnancy “but as a right of every young Filipino to understand his or her body.”
“It must be dealt with the proper assessment on the level of maturity of the specific age bracket so that we would know how to present and explain them the topic of sexuality,” she said.
Sister Mary John, who established the Institute of Women’s Studies, said faith and spirituality that should also be part of the sex education program to “shape values.”
The nun made the call as several groups called on the Philippine Congress to exercise its oversight powers to review laws related to teenage pregnancy.
On Oct. 23, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development launched the No More Children Having Children campaign to address the issue of adolescent pregnancies in the country.
Rom Dongeto, executive director of the committee, said the Education Department needs to implement “comprehensive sexuality education,” which he described as one of the “neglected provisions” of the country’s reproductive health law.
He blamed the “personal and religious biases” of various government agencies for the failure to implement the law.
Dongeto’s group also called on Congress to pass the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Bill that aims to provide access to appropriate reproductive health services to young Filipinos.
The 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey of the Philippines revealed that one in 10 women aged between 15 to 19 gave birth that year.
The survey also showed that early childbearing is more common in southern Philippine regions where Filipino girls who live in rural areas receive less education.
Data from the Philippine Statistic Authority in 2017 showed that 538 babies were born to teenage mothers each day.
A report by the group Save the Children revealed that teenage pregnancy affects six percent of Filipino girls, the second highest rate in Southeast Asia.
Factors cited as causing the rise of teenage pregnancy include lack of access to sex education, lack of access to family planning services, cultural practices, and the lack of adolescent sexuality and reproductive health policies.
“Early pregnancy can also trap girls in an escapable cycle of poverty, stigmatized by society for being teenage mothers or forced into early marriage,” said Alberto Muyot, chief executive officer of Save the Children Philippines.
He said it also “creates a greater risk in terms of maternal complications that affect the mother and the child they bear resulting in low survival rates.”