By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Pam Mendoza, now 27, got pregnant at the age of 16; she was in fourth year high school then. Angelica (not her real name), also got pregnant at the same age. She‘s now 18 and a student in a university. Both of them became mothers at such an early age. While other teenagers sleep for long hours, they had to wake up several times during the wee hours of the morning to feed and change the diaper of their baby, and later on send them to school.
Both of them believe that it is important to integrate sex education in the school curriculum.
Mendoza said if she was well-informed about sex and its implications, she would probably not end up getting pregnant at an early age. Angelica said now that she has a child, she has to juggle her studies with taking care of her baby. She has no time to do things that teenagers normally do. “Somehow, I regret having had pre-marital sex because of that,” she said.
In a conservative and Catholic dominated country like the Philippines, the idea of including sex education in the school curriculum is deemed unacceptable. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) raised hell over plans to include sex education in the school curriculum asserting that sex is not a topic to be discussed in school but should be left to the parents to discuss with their child. But in real life, many parents do not discuss sex with their children. Children normally learn about sex from their peers and from television.
Women’s group Gabriela and Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns emphasized that “whether in the formal or informal education setting, sex education should be viewed in the context of the rights and welfare of children, especially girl children.”
They added that sex education would not only protect children from potential abuse and exploitation, but is also an integral component of their comprehensive reproductive rights. “We believe that teaching women at a young age regarding reproductive health and sexuality would aid them in avoiding unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and maternal death,” the groups said in a statement.
The Need for Sex Education
Gabriela and Salinlahi said it is important to educate children on reproductive health and sexuality especially during these times when children are exposed daily to a myriad of information on sex in the television, internet and other mass media. The debate whether or not to discuss about sex with pre-teens and teenagers is anachronistic.
According to these groups, the baseless assumption that sex education in schools would make children “sex-obsessed” only proves that there is indeed a need for it. Angelica, for example, said she and her boyfriend were having pre-marital sex for over a year already before she got pregnant. Even if they knew that there is a possibility that she would get pregnant even at an early age, they still did it.