…you’ll realize that the world isn’t just Manila.
Throughout my group’s internship at WomanHealth Philippines, that was one of the quotes that I recall our facilitator mentioning. Maybe it’s not exactly related to the actual work at hand (i.e. gender sensitivity), but I think it applies in that the research we’re doing right now has opened my eyes to situations outside my reality.
For my part, I was tasked to find out the situation of sexual health in the context of Filipino youth. Some of my hypotheses were proven right, others wrong. In any case, I found out some interesting, at times alarming, indicators that proved that just because we’re situated in the same milieu, with some similar demographics and all, doesn’t mean that you can see everything that goes on.
But first, let’s define sexual health. According to the World Health Organization, it is “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.” Furthermore, in the definition, it says that “for sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”
Eye-opener: yes, we do have sexual rights.
Maybe I sound ignorant here, but the fact that this isn’t exactly common knowledge should be a cause for concern. It reflects how this arena called sexuality isn’t given much priority, and consequently, sexual health suffers too.
In fact, here’s where the next part of my research comes in.
It’s 2014, and for me, the assumption is gender equality and information accessibility.
However, a 2012 study by Gipson, et al. conducted in Cebu begs to differ.
For one, they found that only 31% of men and 15% of women approve of women having premarital sex while 46% of men and 24% of women approve of men having premarital sex, and the same pattern is seen when they were asked about pregnancy outside of marriage – only 18% of young men and 12% of young women approve of a woman getting pregnant if she is not married to the father. Despite our seemingly modern Philippines, we can still see the prevalence of gender roles and expectations, particularly for women, who are expected to be modest and celibate until marriage — a far cry from the apparent 16% of 15-24 year old women who engaged in premarital sex. Another set of findings was this, taken from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS) data:
Clearly, we can see that many more adolescents engage in sex before partnership, which actually surprised me as it wasn’t like my initial expectation at all.
With the progression of time comes the progression of reality, of context. While it’s very hard to intervene and enforce change towards a desired path, I believe that the best course of action here is to ensure that no matter what the new reality is, there shall be protection of all sexual health rights, as well as the security for one’s citizen to enjoy sexuality as he or she or whatever-gender-the-person-may-be deserves to.
Gipson, J. D., Gultiano, S. A., Avila, J. L., & Hindin, M. J. (2012). Old ideals and new realities: the changing context of young people’s partnerships in Cebu, Philippines. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 14(6), 613-627. doi:10.1080/13691058.2012.684222
by Dea Villarosa 2012-61382