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Teen Pregnancy: The Grassroots Reality in the Philippines

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In February 2016, the international news outlet Al Jazeera reported that teenage pregnancy rates across the world have declined in the past two decades except in the Philippines. The news is based on a report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) on the same year. The report also indicated that one out of 10 young Filipino women ages 15-19 years old is already a mother. A staggering statistic that reflects the reality of the Philippine grassroots scenario, not only in the populated metropolis but even more so in rural areas. Every now and then new batches of young mothers below the age of 20 emerge, adding to the already growing roster of what many considers as a deviant behavior among young Filipino women, many of whom perceived to have rebelled from familial rules, parental guidance, and social norms. The truth of the matter, however, is that instead of being an exception teen pregnancy cases has become the norm, especially in urban poor areas, adding to yet another social problem- poverty amongst others.

Teen Pregnancy from a Grassroots Perspective

It is not uncommon to know a relative or a friend who got pregnant at a young age and it is certainly not surprising to be living in the same neighborhood as these young women. Over time, the stigma of getting pregnant out of wedlock, especially at such a young age has drowned in the frequency and widespread occurrence of such incident. What could have been a grave family scandal twenty years ago is now being met with the same frequency as the ordinary, except for families directly involved. Society takes no effort to express disapproval of these occurrences, anchored perhaps on the modern mentality of minding their own business.

Today’s social norm has left many, but not necessarily all, parents lenient with their teenagers when it comes to dating and relationships. And while there still exists some form of disapproval on these situations evident until today, the actions against these are not that grave or heavy anymore. Slowly and gradually, acceptance that teenage pregnancy is an inevitable part of the social construct is becoming widespread and ingrained in the mentality of many.

Effects of Cultural and Religious Background

While the Philippine’s conservative cultural background and supposedly having a pious Catholic majority could have been a line that prevents the prevalence of teen pregnancy incidence in the country. The long history of the Philippines paints a picture of the Filipino family living with values and principles that must be socially accepted and in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church—a context wherein teen pregnancy is considered as a disgrace and any sexual relationships outside of marriage is considered immoral.

However, this is apparently not the cause in modern Philippines. Many experts even consider the conservative and religious character of the Philippines society as a conduit to growing cases of teen pregnancy. The reluctance of many devout Catholics and conservative families in practicing family planning and in using contraceptives caused an opposite effect on the moral makeup of the community to which teen pregnancy is a big factor of determination.

Teen pregnancy inside of marriage, for women in the 18-19 bracket can also be attributed to the conservative background of many Filipino families. In some cases, young women who are found out to engage in sexual acts even when they did not become pregnant are pressured to marry early. This can be seen in rural areas where family reputation is still a very important thing above anything else. As well, there are some cultures in the country that puts young women in this situation like in cases of arranged marriage among different cultures and beliefs.

Modern Living and Teen Pregnancy

Despite widespread information advocating for the reduction of teen pregnancy cases in the form of public lectures, sex education, and efforts of non-government organizations, there seems to be no stopping the constant rise of numbers.

The role of new technology, especially of smartphones and social media in the untoward behavior of young men and women is widely accepted as factual. Lots of activities and actions outside of what these young people are supposed to are done with and through the help of technology.

In Facebook, for example, Group Chats that are unregulated and unsupervised are becoming platforms for teenagers to interact without censorship with one another and can be a start in advancing sexual interests that leads to meetups and the eventual sexual act, many of whom results to pregnancy. Modern technology for communication has become a tool for these acts.

Similarly, the media also contributes profoundly to these acts. With TV shows, movies and even advertising, as well as social media content, hints, if not encourages sexual actions. This information and content can easily be accessed by young people without supervision and monitoring. Young as they are, they are easily influenced by these fads and they receive these messages as something that is saying “doing it is okay.”

It Starts in Families

While it is a fact that raising God-fearing children and growing them with the right values and principle and being watchful of everything they do does not necessarily prevent the occurrence of teen pregnancy in the society, it still remains as a viable tool with the potential to disrupt the trend.

Parents need to have revolutionary ideas in growing and guiding their children and straying them off from negative influences. Teenage behavior is almost always traced back to their family situation. Family dynamics and activities have a great impact on the psychology of children and this is something many would agree on.

As the government and other institutions continue finding more effective ways to reduce the incidence of teen pregnancies in the country, the responsibility of guiding and supervising children and teenagers remain in the hands of parents and the family. Other institutions will remain a support to this endeavor but it is up to the parents and families to set the right boundaries and create the most fitting strategy to avoid this social problem.

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