The latest State of the World Population (SWOP) report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), titled "My Body Is My Own: Claiming the Right to Autonomy and Self-Determination," highlights women's power to control their own bodies - and its link to the degree of control they have in other dimensions of their lives.

The document reports that millions of women and young girls are denied their right to say no to sex, agree to the choice of a partner in marriage or the right moment to have a child.

Compared to other countries, the Philippines ranks better in terms of the ability of women aged 15 to 49 to make decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights.

However, UNFPA Philippines Country Dr. Leila Joudane reveals that there are still areas where the country can do better in ensuring that women and girls exercise their bodily autonomy, particularly the need to address the disparities across income, age, level of education and geographic location in realizing this right.

Another critical point of emphasis is the challenges young Filipinos face in realizing their right to bodily autonomy.

"Adolescents in the Philippines continue to face cultural and systemic barriers in realizing their rights for bodily autonomy. Alarming statistics of adolescent pregnancy is a result of our young people's inability to realize their rights to autonomy and self-determination." explained Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio Perez 3rd.

Even before the pandemic, the Philippines has a high adolescent pregnancy rate as one in five girls already become mothers by the age of 19.

Adolescent pregnancies are often not a result of a deliberate choice but a result of restrictive policies, sex without consent, harmful social norms and lack of information.

Perez believes the Philippine government should make investments in key programs that will protect the rights of young people for self-determination.