An estimated 538 babies are born to Filipino teenage mothers every day. With more than 1 in 20 girls affected, the Philippines has the second highest rate of teen pregnancies in Southeast Asia.
The situation is filled with contradictions. In this predominantly catholic country, premarital sex is a sin and abortion is illegal. Meanwhile, the Quiapo church surroundings in Manila is the place to get illegal abortion medication. The legal minimum age to marry is 18, yet adults are allowed to have sex with children from the age of 12, if they consent. Pressure from the catholic corner leads to inadequate sex education and a lack of access to birth control. As a result, some teenagers do not know that pregnancy results from sex and a variety of myths circulate amongst youngsters.
In 2019 the government declared the topic a national emergency.
The story was published in National Geographic NL.