One in 10 Filipino children suffer sexual violence in their homes says a relief organisation, while government figures indicate growing numbers of pre-teen girls getting pregnant.
International humanitarian relief organisation World Vision Philippines ranked the country as 10th worst in the world when it came to girls aged from 10 to 14 getting pregnant.
Meanwhile, Commission on Population executive director Juan Antonio Perez revealed that children as young as nine were were falling pregnant, with at least 40 ten-year-old girls having babies every year.
On Thursday (March 23) World Vision Philippines launched a campaign called “It Takes a World to End Sexual Exploitation of Children”.
Advocacy manager Kathrine Yee said: “This campaign will do three major things. First, we will empower children. Second, we will journey together with our law enforcement. Third, through you, which is why we are launching this.”
“It takes everybody to finally end sexual exploitation here in the Philippines.”
The campaign aims to raise awareness, empower caregivers and children and establish an online abuse hotline. Rescue operations and legal interventions, are also planned.
Department of Social Welfare & Development secretary Judy Taguiwalo welcomed the campaign, saying: “The most vulnerable are the children of the poor. This is a very welcome initiative.
“Rest assured our department is working hand in hand with World Vision in protecting children.”
An investigation of official birth records from the Civil Registration Service highlights the urgent need for action.
According to data provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority between 2011-2014 there were 151 cases of 10-year-old girls having babies. There were 15 in 2011; 43 in 2012; 50 in 2013 and 43 in 2014. In the majority of these cases, the girls were aged only nine when they conceived.
The figures go up sharply as age increases — in 2011, for example, 31 babies were born to 11-year-olds, 43 to 12-year-olds, 152 to 13-year-olds, and 1,140 to girls aged 14.
As far as more recent figures are available, these rates appear to be increasing year-on-year.
Concerned by the trend, the Commission on Population launched a “Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study” to examine the issue. This found that some of the girls said there was an “element of force” to their first sexual encounters.
The research, which involved one-on-one interviews of 19,000 children, pointed to low education, the proliferation of internet and communications technologies and “community behaviours” as factors driving the trend.
Mr Perez said: “The results of the studies are very alarming especially on the increased incidence of unprotected sex among our youth. The risks of teenage pregnancy and STIs are relatively high.
“We should not deprive our youth of reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality and education that would help them become healthy, happy and empowered adolescents.”
Cebu province had the highest number of teenage pregnancies every year at about 11,000. Nationally, the figure stands at 130,000.