Sexual abuse: the darker side of teenage pregnancies
MANILA, Philippines – If you think teenage or adolescent pregnancies are all hormones and a bed of roses, then you have not yet heard of its darker side.
During a forum on teenage pregnancy, Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development executive director Romeo Dongeto said that a lot of early pregnancies may be attributed to abuse and forced sex or rape.
PLCPD is a non-government organization for human development, which counts 81 lawmakers as its members.
“‘Yon pong binabanggit nating teenage pregnancy ay may, for lack of better words, may darker side… At ito po ‘yong medyo malungkot, of course, teenage pregnancy as it is is a very serious problem, but sexual violence against children is also very much connected to adolescent reproductive health and teenage pregnancy in the country,” Dongeto said during the Pandesal forum in Kamuning, Quezon City.
The group noted that they are seeing an alarming trend with the teenage pregnancies being recorded by the government: most of the teenage mothers were impregnated by men older than they are.
“What we noted in the data from 2018 is that the partners of the teenage mothers are apparently older than them. So no’ng 2014, 2,250 ‘yong nanganak na 10 to 14 years old, but only 64 of their partners ay ‘yong ka-edad nila. So 2,000 plus na ka-partner nila were older than them,” he explained
(What we noted in the data from 2018 is that the partners of the teenage mothers are apparently older than them. So in 2014, out of the 2,250 teenage mothers aged 10 to 14 years old, only 64 of their partners were of the same age. So 2,000 plus of their partners were older than them.)
“Now when we look at 15 to 20 (years old), ‘yong mga 151,000 (births), only 50,000 ‘yong ka-edad nila. So over 100,000 were older,” he added.
(Now when we look at 15 to 20 year old category, of the 151,000 births, only 50,000 of the mothers’ partners had the same age. So over 100,000 were older.)
This observation has raised the issue of the age of sexual consent, which currently stands at 12 years old — a low number compared to other countries. This means that sex with a 12-year-old is, as of now, not automatically considered statutory rape.
Currently, there is a bill in the House of Representatives that seeks to raise the age of sexual consent to 16 years old. Under Tingog Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Majority Floor Leader Rep. Martin Romualdez’ House Bill No. 4160, an older person having sex with minors 15 years old and below qualifies to statutory rape.
According to Dongeto, numbers from the Child Rights Network (CRN) show that the Philippines is one of the world’s hotbeds — if not the largest — for child sexual exploitation and abuse.
CRN said that in 2018 alone, at least 600,000 naked and sexualized photos and videos were either shared or sold online.
Meanwhile, he also mentioned a survey by the Committee on the Welfare of Children in 2015 which showed that 1 out of 5 Filipino children are victims of sexual violence.
Dongeto implied that while teenage pregnancy is not good, it might be the lesser evil since there may be consent among the minor parents, as compared to rape and sexual violence which brings an array of psychosocial and mental problems.
“So kung consensual relationship, siguro ang feel ko ‘don is teka muna, ang mga batang ito ba ay preparado, protektado ba sila? Kasi kung pre-marital sex ‘yan… kung hindi po ‘yan protektado malamang teenage pregnancy po (ang resulta) n’yan. Pero ang mahirap po ‘yong forced sex at rape, and these are happening right now,” he added.
Also at the forum, Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) Executive Director Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago said that 1.2 million adolescent Filipinos have given birth in the last 10 years.
Both warned that the country may be on the losing end if the trend continues, as resources that could have been used to fund education and other pressing issues are instead allocated to helping teenage parents.
Edited by EDV
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