Church and state clash over sex and condoms in the Philippines
A C Grayling
A. C. Grayling is an English philosopher and founder of independent undergraduate college, New College of the Humanities. He is the author of several books including The Refutation of Scepticism (1985), The Meaning of Things (2001) and The Good Book (2011).
Thursday 19 May 2011
A 13-year battle between church and state in the Philippines, one of the world's most devoutly Catholic nations, has come to a head over government plans to provide free condoms and sex education. Catholic bishops have threatened to excommunicate President Benigno Aquino over a reproductive health bill introduced into the Congress yesterday.
As well as the powerful church, Mr Aquino is opposed by one of the most popular figures in the Philippines, the world champion boxer turned congressman Manny Pacquiao.
Mr Pacquiao said this week that he would never have been born, or become a champion, if his parents had used contraception. "God said go forth and multiply," he declared. "He did not say just go and have one or two children."
The aim of the bill is to control population growth, reduce HIV infection rates and eradicate the need for women to seek backstreet abortions. Mr Aquino, who is determined to see it become law, is prepared to be banished from the church, if necessary. "I have been taught in school, which was a Catholic institution, that the final arbiter really is our conscience," he said yesterday.
But the church, which has enormous clout in the Philippines, is not about to give way. Since 1998, it has quashed several previous versions of the bill. "Sex is not a game that should be taught to children, along with the use of condoms, supposedly to avoid disease," the Archbishop of Manila, Gaudencio Rosales, told an anti-contraception rally in the capital two months ago.
About 80 per cent of Filipinos are Catholic, a legacy of the country's Spanish colonial past, and they look to the church for political as well as moral guidance. Two former presidents, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada, were forced out of office by "people power" revolutions backed by religious leaders. Mr Aquino's late mother, Cory, another former president, was bolstered by the church's support.
Advocates of improved education and condom provision point to the rapidly growing population, which has doubled to 94 million in the past 30 years, and to the fact many people live in grinding poverty. While the HIV infection rate is low compared with other Asian countries, public health officials say tougher measures to prevent the spread of the disease are needed.
With abortion still illegal in the Philippines, 560,000 women visit backstreet clinics annually, according to a report by the New York-based Centre for Reproductive Rights. Of them, an estimated 90,000 experience complications, and 1,000 women die every year.
The church advocates abstinence and the bishops have called for condoms to carry warning labels, saying they create a false sense of security and encourage promiscuity.
- 1 Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 4 'Don't blame all men for rape' campaign backfires spectacularly
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
UK's biggest male rape charity Survivors UK has state funding slashed to zero despite 120% rise in men reporting sexual violence and seeking help
Priest warns pupils the 'Charlie Charlie Challenge' is 'demonic activity'
'Don't blame all men for rape' campaign backfires spectacularly
Iran launches anti-Isis cartoon competition 'to expose true nature of Islamic State'
Fifa corruption arrests: Sepp Blatter 'quite relaxed' and confident he is 'not involved'
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Engineers for field & bench ser...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global provider of call ce...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: By developing intimate relationships with inte...