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Gatchalian seeks strengthened sexuality education, social protection for teenage mothers

Following the Commission on Population and Development’s (CPD) report that over 22,000 teenagers experienced repeat pregnancies, Senator Win Gatchalian is seeking the strengthened implementation of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and the provision of social protection for teenage mothers.

Data from the CPD showed that those who experienced repeat pregnancies are usually aged 13 to 15.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is a factor in the surge of adolescent pregnancies, the CPD cited cultural factors. For instance, a teenage mother and the man who got her pregnant are forced to live together. The CPD flagged the commonly wide age gap between a teenager and the man who got her pregnant, which shows unequal power relations and abuse in the relationship.

For Gatchalian, one of the most important ways to protect girls is to keep them in schools, where they can learn CSE and access child protection programs. He also emphasized the need to give young mothers the chance to be reintegrated into the education system.

“Napagkakaitan ang mga batang ina na magkaroon ng magandang edukasyon at ang paulit-ulit na pagbubuntis ay maaaring senyales ng pang-aabuso. Mahalagang panagutin natin ang mga nang-aabuso sa mga batang kababaihan at tiyaking mabibigyan natin ng pangalawang pagkakataon ang mga batang ina,” said Gatchalian, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.

Gatchalian also called for the enforcement of laws that seek to protect young girls from sexual abuse and violence. One of these is Republic Act No. 11596, which prohibits child marriages or marriages where one or both parties are under the age of 18. The law also protects those aged 18 or above who cannot fully take care of and protect themselves because of physical or mental conditions. Republic Act No. 11596 also prohibits the cohabitation of an adult with a child outside of wedlock.

Republic Act No. 11648, meanwhile, raised the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16. 

Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN