His side in ‘her’ issue: Effect of teenage pregnancy on the male teen

It has been a year since Bryan’s little angel came to this world. He was 17 then, and all he ever wanted was to live out his “pagbibinata” and have fun.

Never did he think that one night out would change his life.

Last year, he needed to find a job to provide for the daily needs of his pregnant live-in partner. He worked as a bakery assistant, a market boy, and an illegal factory worker. He grabbed every opportunity just to man up to his responsibilities to his partner.

Bryan is just one of the many teenage boys who engage in premarital sex as a minor, and who needed to face the resulting pregnancy.

Teenage pregnancy is a big concern of families, communities, and the government. A lot has been written about the issue, and many mechanisms are in place to help curb its incidence. However, the males’ side about this issue was rarely written about and heard.

Insufficient information, absent parents, and teen pregnancy

According to the National Statistics Office (NSO), there was a 65% increase on teenage pregnancy rate from 2000-2011. There are many reasons associated with this increase, including frequent Internet usage, insufficient access to information about sex, and lack of parental supervision.

In an article posted in rappler.com, Commissioner Percival Cendaña of the National Youth Commission (NYC) said that Internet and frequent use of social networking sites contribute to incidences of teenage sex and pregnancy because the ease of communication between lovers has “accelerated the time needed to be intimate.”

The Family Health Survey, on the other hand, pointed to insufficient access to information about sexual health and reproductive health services as a reason behind the phenomenon. But according to Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, it is not sex education that we need to give the teenagers but a strengthening of self control and valuing for life.

Another reason for teenage pregnancy is the opportunity for intimacy due to absent parents. In the Philippines where many children have OFW parents, teenagers spend a lot of “alone” time with their lovers and less with supervising elders who have authority over them. An article at youthpinoy.com quoted NYC Commissioner Cendaña saying that 36.7% of young Filipinos believe “early sexual encounter is acceptable in society.”

Desertion, “barkada,” and Bryan

Bryan came from a broken family. His mother went overseas and has been an OFW for almost six years now, leaving all her family responsibilities to her husband. She had since then lived a new life and raised another family in Iraq. Bryan’s father left him and his siblings under the care of their grandmother. Parentless, the only thing Bryan knew at that time was to study hard and to let his siblings enjoy life.

However, adolescence came, and his peers or “barkada” became his second family. His cellphone became his buddy, and girls became his playmates. With the onset of his teenage years, all he ever wanted was to forget how he and his siblings were left behind by their own parents and how cruel life could be. He stopped going to school because there was no financial support available for him. At a young age, he learned to smoke and to drink. His barkada became his refuge since he thought that this was all he got left. No education, no parental guidance, and, at that time, no valuing for his own life. “Patapon,” that was how he described himself.

All these pushed him to seek pleasures and fun. And he found those in bed. He was in a relationship with Mina for more than four months when they finally did it. However, once was not enough; they did it several times. He was confident the pregnancy would never happen.

“Naka-condom naman ako. Pero nung huli, di na ako nag-condom. Umiinom na si Mina ng pills,” he shared.

He thought that his limited knowledge about sex was already enough. But he was wrong. And that lapse in judgment led to little Samantha today.

Teen pregnancy, government action, and economic reality

Teenage pregnancy is notably observed among girls aged 15 to 19. The increase was 65% between 2000 and 2011, but birth rate in this age group was only 38% according to NSO.

On August 2, 2013 Laguna 4th District Representative Sol Aragones filed House Bill 377, or the “Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Responsibility and Opportunity Act.” This Bill seeks information dissemination on the bad effects of teenage pregnancy and/or its prevention, to be carried out by the health department, authorized educational and public health agencies, and non-profit private entities.

Earlier in July, the Commission on Population (PopCom) allotted two million pesos for a study about teenage pregnancy in the Philippine context.

In some parts of the country, there have also been initiatives that focus on teenage pregnancy, such as PopCom’s “500 million girls in the world today: Investing in their rights, health, education and potentials” in Region VI, and the move to ban teenagers from motels and beach houses, as these venues offer privacy and secrecy that encourage teens to commit premarital sex that often lead to unwanted pregnancies.

When Bryan found out that Mina was pregnant, he felt fear – for himself and for Mina. Before telling their parents, they tried to abort the pregnancy through drinking concentrated fabric conditioner. Samantha, however, was strong; she held on.

When Mina’s parent found out, ‘tinakwil nila si Mina,’ Bryan said. He stood by her side and faced the consequences of that lapse.

He immediately looked for job that could sustain their everyday living. For months, they were good. But when Samantha started to grow and learn to walk, Mina started to come home late and leave her child to the care of a 12-year-old babysitter.

She later found an older man with a stable job, and left Bryan. She took their daughter when she left.

He felt betrayed; he prioritized Mina and Samantha over his siblings, and even fought for them against Mina’s parents, but it seemed that these were not enough. Mina left, and this drove him to work harder. Even though his request to see Samantha was refused, he persisted, knowing it’s his right as a father.

Compared to the man Mina lives with now, Bryan said he is “nothing.” He could never afford what this man could give his daughter since his wages are just enough to cover their daily needs. But he never regretted having Samantha because he valued her more than anything.

His contribution to that part of her story

What Bryan regretted was loving Mina.

“Pareho sila ni Mama,” he said.

Bryan’s story shows that males are also affected in issues that concern females, especially teenage pregnancy. This is the often overlooked part of the phenomenon, as what The United States Office of Adolescent Health (USOAH) stated in its website: “Research and data collection efforts have tended to focus on female adolescents. As a result, less is known about the strategies and approaches for effectively engaging males in preventing teen pregnancies or even about their attitudes toward being a father.”

Since behavior of adolescent males is also important in preventing teenage pregnancy, according to USOAH, it is good to involve them in the campaign for responsible sexual behavior, as what Sonestain et al say in the book “Focusing On Kid.” While adolescent males rarely take part in raising babies, Sonestein believes that they should be included in campaigns for the prevention of teen pregnancy because of these 10 reasons:

1. It takes two to create a pregnancy.

2. Boys and men should be held responsible for their sexual behavior. Just because they cannot get pregnant does not mean they should be irresponsible.

3. Boys and men want to be more responsible about their sexual behavior. In one recent survey, more than 90 percent of teen males agreed that male responsibilities include talking about contraception before sex, using contraception to protect against unwanted pregnancy, and taking responsibility for a child they father.

4. Most boys and men are more likely to make better decisions about sex if they are given reasons to do so and are treated with respect.

5. Male partners strongly influence what decisions teen girls make about sex and contraception, especially when they are older than the teen girl.

6. Older men who become sexually involved with much younger minor girls can be held criminally accountable through statutory rape laws.

7. Prevention programs that provide mentoring and youth development activities can help young men by offering education, skills, employment opportunities, and hope, all of which build self-respect.

8. Building young men’s self respect helps them respect their partners.

9. Older teens and adult men are an untapped resource as leaders for teen pregnancy prevention programs.

10. Involving boys and men makes programming for girls more effective by addressing both sides of the teen pregnancy.

NYC Commissioner Cendaña also believes that the key to preventing teenage pregnancy is educating not only one party but both parties. In one interview with ABS-CBN network, he said: “Studies have shown that if teens know the consequences of their actions, chances are they will be more responsible when it comes to sex.”

Cendaña called on government and stakeholders to “address [present] situation given the [current] context, not the context 10 or 20 years before.”  (Andrea Joyce Arbues)

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