[Statement] 10 years of the RH Law in the Philippines: A victory? | Roots of Health

STATEMENT: 10 years of the Reproductive Health Law in the Philippines: A victory?

Getting the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RH) enacted in the Philippines a decade ago was a hard-won battle.

The passage of the RH bill faced gargantuan opposition from powerful sectors and getting it passed seemed all but impossible. But realizing the law’s implementation has been tougher.

Maternal mortality has decreased slightly, but it’s still far above the Sustainable Development Goals target. It took ten years, but the Department of Education has finally disseminated a Comprehensive Sexuality Education curriculum. They are now training teachers to implement it. We are working with local schools to do just that.

Teenage pregnancy remains a national concern that we at Roots of Health keep working to address. Our work over the past 13 years yielded critical insights into this issue.

Pre-test and post-test activities during our sexuality education sessions for high school students in Palawan reveal continued low levels of knowledge among young people about sexual and reproductive health.

For example, before attending our sessions, 70% of the students believed that jumping up and down after sex is an effective way to avoid pregnancy. Around 80% believed that withdrawal is an effective method of pregnancy prevention.

We also found out that many young people’s first sexual encounter was not planned and that many girls entered sexual relationships earlier than they wanted because of pressure or force from their partners. The idea that sexual relationships should be built on the consent and willingness of both parties is new to many young people; furthermore, the old idea of male conquest often goes along with refusal to use condoms or other forms of contraception.

With our partners, we continue to push for increased access to free non-judgmental information and services for not only women of reproductive age, but also teens, so they can make informed decisions about their bodies, their health, and their futures.

It’s preventing that first unplanned pregnancy that is the most important. It’s making couples and young people understand boundaries and consent that is most crucial in ensuring that partners practice healthy behavior, plan their families and their lives, and actually enjoy it.

As we celebrate milestones and commemorate the 10th anniversary of the RH Law, we call on more public investments for RH programs at the national and local levels and better integration of age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education in public and private schools. Only when no woman has an unplanned pregnancy and no teenager is denied information or services can we claim victory over our lingering RH problems.

About Roots of Health

Roots of Health/Ugat ng Kalusugan is a reproductive health organization that has been operating in Palawan for 13 years. It works to empower women, young people, and families to lead healthy reproductive lives by providing rights- and results-based educational and clinical services.

The organization has a three-pronged strategy to achieve its goals. It provides accurate sexual health education in schools, communities and online; it delivers high quality clinical services in two clinics and in communities; and it partners with local, regional and national government agencies and the Sanggunian Kabataan to strengthen public systems for sustained change.

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