MANILA, November 29, 2003 (MALAYA) Filipino youths remain conservative on views on virginity, divorce, and pregnancy before marriage, but they are becoming increasingly open to live-in relationships, are getting married at an older age, and are engaging in risky sexual behavior and pre-marital sex at an early age.

These were revealed by the Population Commission at a congress yesterday.

Tomas Osias, Popcom executive director, said based on the 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey, the youth are manifesting opposing behaviors towards their views on reproductive health. He said this stresses the need for them to be guided on the more important issues that confront them.

The survey showed 70 percent of young people (10 to 24 years) believe virginity is an "important value before marriage." The figure, however, showed a decline from the 1982 survey showing nine of 10 youths said they value virginity.

"While the youth are becoming more open about virginity, most of them, especially among the female population ... consider it an important value before marriage," Osias said.

The survey had more than 20,000 youth respondents.

Osias said more young people are now engaged in pre-marital sex but do not realize that pregnancy could occur on the first contact.

The survey showed 22 percent of young females and 34 percent of males have engaged in pre-marital sex. In a 1994 survey, the premarital sex incidence among females and males was both at 13 percent.

But while they are increasingly into pre-marital sex, 85 percent of youths said pregnancy without marriage was a no-no.

This contradictory data is due to the fact that almost half of them were unaware that pregnancy is possible after only one sexual encounter.

Around 80 percent of young females did not know their fertile period. "This indicates a general lack of information regarding the importance of timing of sex during women's menstrual cycle," the study said.

Because of lack of information, one-third of young women between 20-24 years old had their first child before the age of 21.

"Teenagers who have begun childbearing are increasing, from 9 percent reported in 1993 and rose to 11 percent in 1998," it said.

The survey also showed that 61 percent of young people are against divorce and want their parents to stay married.

But their conservatism stops there as young people are now increasingly open to live-in relationships, which make them decide to postpone marriage.

"Delayed marriage, however, has been accompanied by the increase in live-in arrangements among the youth," the study said, adding that two out of five young adults are living-in at present. In 1994, only 20 percent or one out of five were into such kind of relationship.

The youths are also increasingly into smoking, drug use, violence and even suicide. The survey said 12 percent of them admitted to have had at least one suicide attempt.

Osias said they are not very happy with the latest survey because of the pervading misconception and lack of information among the youth sector.

"We want to be able to find ways to communicate with young people because they are still misinformed and confused on a lot of important issues that affect them," Osias said. (Cheloy Garafil)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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