/ 18 February 2021

A GROUP on Wednesday called on the government to immediately address the alarming rise in cases of teenage pregnancy and sexual exploitation of children.

The call was made following a survey by Social Weather Stations which revealed that teenage pregnancy, unintended births, and physical violence are among the top concerns of women amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In an online press conference, SWS presented the results of the survey commissioned by the Commission on Population and Development and conducted in November 2020 among adults.

The results of the nationwide survey reveal that 59 percent of the respondents said teenage pregnancy is the most pressing problem of women today, followed by physical violence (11 percent), unintended pregnancy (11 percent) and sexual violence (7 percent).

“This should be a wake-up call to the government. The recent data force us to examine and ask the government to explain why children in the Philippines are having children. Looking closely, we know that it is not simply because these children, particularly the very young adolescents, have chosen to have consensual sex,” Romeo Dongeto, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, said.

“The government itself, through the NEDA [National Economic and Development Authority], has called teenage pregnancy a national social emergency. We call on our lawmakers and concerned government agencies to respond to it as such. This is compounded by the Covid19 pandemic, which increases the vulnerabilities of everyone, especially women and children,” he added.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 62,510 children gave birth in 2019. Of these, seven very young adolescents or those between 10 and 14 years gave birth per day, or a total of 2,411 for the year.

A study by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and United Nations Population Fund said that teenage pregnancy in the country could have increased by an additional 18,000 last year because of barriers to services due to Covid19 restrictions. The study also projected that intimate partner violence — physical or sexual — could also increase by 20 percent, although many cases of gender-based violence remain unreported.

In 2019, PLCPD, POPCOM and other partners in the government and civil society launched the No More Children Having Children campaign to call on Congress to pass the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act.

The bill seeks to provide minors access to reproductive health services including modern family planning methods, comprehensive sexuality education, establishment of adolescent friendly health facilities, and social protection for adolescent mothers and fathers.

The No More Children Having Children campaign also called for the full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law (Republic Act 10354) which mandates comprehensive sexuality education.