World Contraception Day (September 26, 2018)
When young people don t get accurate information from trusted adults like parents or teachers, they will look for answers among their friends. So Annabelle asks her closest girlfriends what they know about sex.
September 26 is World Contraception Day. It is a day to highlight the enormous benefit that contraception brings to millions of lives worldwide.
I was invited to speak today at a World Contraception Day event held at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman. I had been asked to speak about the challenges that Filipinas face in accessing contraception. To illustrate my points, I shared the story of Annabelle.
Annabelle is 15 and has a 23- year- old boyfriend named Jonas. They’ve been together for a while, and Jonas has started talking about wanting to have sex.
Annabelle doesn’t know much about sex.
She does go to school, but she lives in the Philippines, so her school does not have a “comprehensive sexuality education” curriculum. All she knows about sex is that her mom says it’s bastos and bawal ( vulgar and forbidden), and she’s supposed to wait until she’s married.
When young people don’t get accurate information from trusted adults like parents or teachers, they will look for answers among their friends. So Annabelle asks her closest girlfriends what they know about sex.
Her friends also live in the Philippines and also haven’t had comprehensive sex ed, so Annabelle gets bad information. Her friends tell her that if it’s her first time to have sex, she can’t get pregnant. They tell her if she jumps up and down after sex, she won’t get pregnant.
So Annabelle and her boyfriend have sex once. She thinks she’s protected since it’s her first time. But then Jonas wants to have sex again. Annabelle is worried she might get pregnant. Luckily she has a young cousin who already has a baby. Her cousin tells her if she doesn’t want to get pregnant, she should use contraception.
Annabelle doesn’t know anything about contraception and has only heard that it can make people sick, but she’s willing to try.
If she was rich, Annabelle would be able to go to a private clinic or go to a pharmacy and buy her own condoms. But Annabelle is poor, so she has to find a place where she can get contraceptives for free.
So she goes to a health center. When she gets there, she finds out that the health center does not have any supplies of pills and condoms, only the injectable DMPA. But she’ll have to pay 100 pesos for them to give her that because supplies are limited.
What usually happens at government health centers happens to Annabelle – before she can get any more information, the nurse asks her how old she is. She says she’s 15. The nurse immediately starts scolding her and shaming her, telling her she shouldn’t be having sex, and that she’s going to tell Annabelle’s mother what she’s doing. The nurse also tells her that she can’t have contraceptives anyway until she’s 18 unless she has parental consent.
This happens to most young girls who try to access contraceptives, especially if they are unmarried or don’t have a baby yet.
But let’s pretend for a minute that Annabelle found a health center that’s more progressive, and that has a resident doctor or social worker who believes in helping youth help themselves. Let’s say the social worker or doctor gives proxy consent for Annabelle for contraception, and let’s pretend the health center has all contraceptive methods