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Arranged marriages tied to high teen pregnancies

/ 12:00 AM April 11, 2015

BAGUIO CITY—Arranged marriages, part of tradition in some upland Cordillera areas, are partly to blame for a high number of teenage pregnancies and population officials are now taking a closer look at the impact of this practice on efforts to promote responsible parenthood and reproductive health.

Rose Fortaleza, Cordillera director of the Population Commission (Popcom), cited a study that showed some cases of teenage pregnancies in parts of Cordillera are actually results of arranged marriages.

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Fortaleza, speaking at the sidelines of a program to celebrate the first anniversary of a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act as constitutional, said Popcom’s Cordillera office initiated the study to look deeper into sexual behavior of teenagers in the upland towns.

The study was prompted by the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS) which said the Cordillera has the most sexually active teenagers, as young as 15-years-old.

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The upland region, which has the highest concentration of indigenous Filipino communities in Luzon, also has the highest pregnancy rate at 18.4 percent in the latest YAFS, according to Popcom.

The youngest recorded was a 12-year-old mother who gave birth in Baguio City.

But assumptions about the rise in adolescent sexual activity may have been erroneous, based on initial evaluation of data from the region’s provinces, Fortaleza said.

For example, incest cases have taken place in some upland communities, victimizing teenagers, she said.

The more significant data, however, involved adolescent marriages which also increased at the same time health officials recorded the number of teen pregnancies, said Job Manalang, Popcom regional information officer.

Most arranged marriages are apparently being made in remote farming communities, where education is not the first option for poor families, he said.

Cases of teenage pregnancies in the Mt. Province capital of Bontoc increased from 41 in 2011 to 64 in 2013. But in the more rural Paracelis town, the number of cases increased from 90 in 2011 to 136 in 2013, Popcom said.

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As of September 2014, Bontoc had 47 teen mothers while Paracelis had 90. But within the same period, Bauko town had 52 teen mothers, which was higher than the 45 recorded there in 2013.

In Alfonso Lista town in Ifugao, health officials recorded 108 teen mothers aged 15 to 19, according to Popcom. The town also recorded three mothers younger than 14 years old.

Adolescent marriages are still arranged by grandparents in remote villages of Mt. Province and Kalinga, and teens oblige as part of their family or customary duty, said Lyn Madalang, executive director of gender rights group, Ebgan Inc.

“Families resort to this practice to protect clan properties, to mend clan differences or to maintain bonds of friendship. Sometimes, teens are coerced into marriage to make up for the fact that their fathers or mothers did not pursue a previous arrangement so they have to fulfill the deal. It’s tough for some of them,” said Madalang, a resident of Bontoc. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: arranged marriage, Cordillera, reproductive health, Responsible parenthood, Teen Pregnancy
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