Senate bills to address teen pregnancy a welcome development, says int’l NGO

Source: National Demographic and Health Survey 2017

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 03 March) – The international NGO Oxfam on Friday called the move of the Senate to tackle bills to address adolescent pregnancy “a welcome development in realizing an extensive policy” that will address the issue.

The Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality tackled on Wednesday the proposed bills.

But in a statement, Oxfam Pilipinas, quoted its executive director Erika Geronimo as saying that while the Senate committee’s response and actions “signify their commitment towards a rights-based approach in addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights matters…there is much to be done to ensure it is reflected in the proposed bill.”

The group cited that the 2022 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) showed that teenage pregnancy among 15-19 years old has declined from 8.6% in 2017 to 5.4% in 2022.

However, it said that this needs “further scrutiny and analysis because of possible factors attributing to the COVID 19 lockdown in 2020-2021.”

It further noted that the Commission on Population and Development has raised concern over the high number of early pregnancies among girls 10-14 years old, which is about 2,000 pregnancies recorded across the country.

“Among girls aged 15 to 19 years, only 13.4% have a correct knowledge of the fertile period, and seven out of 10 first premarital sex activities are unprotected,” it said, citing 2017 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

According to the World Bank, the Philippines has 47 births annually per 1,000 women aged 15-19, higher than the average adolescent birth rates of 44 globally and 33.5 in the ASEAN region.

Oxfam Pilipinas recommended to the Senate committee to change the age range of adolescence from 10 to 21 to 10 to 19 in Senate Bills 1209, 372 and 651 to align it with the World Health Organization definition.

The group also called for the recognition of young women and men regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics as rights holders. 

“It is indeed promising that the proposed bills ensure social protection for adolescent mothers, parents, and their children and its present form is now inclusive of the rights of LGBTQIA+ adolescents, adolescents with disabilities, and the IP and Moro groups. However, there is still much to be done to make it fully supportive of a gender-responsive, inclusive, and universal national policy in addressing adolescent pregnancy,” Geronimo added. (MindaNews)