‘Online hookups, sex-saturated cyber world abetting family breakdowns’

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STRENGTH IN NUMBERS. Thousands flocked to Luneta for the 2018 'Walk for Life' last Feb. 24.

EXPERTS are lamenting the decline of marriages and public regard for family and life, a trend they linked to the prevalence of a growing “culture of sex” in the country.

Stressing the importance of Christian maturity in dating, Warren Maneja, a Theology professor from the UST Institute of Religion, said the youth have absorbed a “misunderstanding” of the value of sexuality and family through the climate of intimacy that technology has brought.

Different forms of online dating encourage intimacy without commitment, he said, citing popular applications like “Tinder.”

Tinder is a dating application that shows the user a profile picture with a small description of the person of interest. To “like” the person and to set up a meeting, the user only needs to “swipe right” on the screen.

“These apps encourage a kind of dating that encourages intimacy without commitments e.g., hookups, one-night stands,” Maneja told the Varsitarian in an e-mail.

The nationwide survey by the Demographic Research and Development Foundation and the University of the Philippines Population Institute noted the shift of young people’s preference from traditional to new media, which was also evident in their sexual behaviors.

Twenty-five percent or one in every four Filipino youth have sent or received sex videos through cellphones or the Internet, while one in every 100 Filipino youth has recorded his or her own sex video.

Maneja, a marriage counselor, said this trend was an indication that Christian maturity was no longer important in dating.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, echoed the Theology professor and said Filipino society has embraced devalued sexual intercourse, maintaining that it should always be directed to procreation and family.

This culture, Pabillo said, has weakened marriages dramatically.

Hindi nabibigyang halaga ang kasal. [A]ng kultura ngayon ay masyadong sex-oriented so hindi nakikita na [ito] ay pagbibigay ng buhay,” Pabillo said.

Pabillo added that Filipinos now tend to separate sex and marriage, which in Church teachings are treated as one.

Ang kultura ngayon ay masyadong sex-oriented kaya ang mga tao ay hinihiwalay `yung sex sa kasal. Kaya nagse-sex na sila, wala pang kasal so hindi nakikita na ang pagse-sex ay pagbibigay ng buhay,” he said. 

The Philippine Statistics Authority has reported a 30 percent fall in the number of registered marriages for the past 12 years. Between 2010 and 2015, Catholic marriages dropped 11 percent while those officiated by judges or mayors declined 16 percent.

Co-habitation, counselling

Co-habitation, an arrangement where an unmarried couple lives together, presents a big challenge to marriage since it forgoes the sense of Christian responsibility in raising a family, said Maneja.

“Because there would always be the proverbial backdoor where you can get out in cohabitation when things aren’t going your way,” he said.

In 2014 studies of the Philippine Statistics Authority and consultancy firm ICF covering the past two decades, it was found that the proportion of cohabiting Filipino women of reproductive age almost trebled, from 5.2 percent in 1993 to 14 percent.

“Cohabitation has a much higher dissolution rate than formal marriage, the rise in cohabitation will likely lead to an increase in the proportion of Filipinos who are separated,” the study said.

Fr. Winniefred Naboya, judicial vicar of the Diocese of Malolos, said the decline of Catholic marriages may be due to the fear of some couples of lifetime commitment, so they opt to stay as live-in partners.

“Some do not believe in marriage itself, afraid of a lifetime commitment which is one of the demands of the sacramental marriage… So if troubles come, they can easily separate without going through any process to nullify marriage,” he said.

Pabillo said most Filipinos opt not to marry before the Church, as strict requirements for a Catholic marriage were often feared by couples who had conceived children out of wedlock.

Lawyer Jeremy Gatdula, professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific, said  couples with troubled marriages who go to counseling manage to stay together and cross the 25-year-old threshold, and their relationships become more solid and permanent.

The 2010 National Marriage Project study of the University of Virginia found that religiously united couples had higher chances of staying together.

Divorce, family laws

Naboya said legislating for divorce would worsen problems brought forth by broken families.

The House of Representatives approved “The Act of Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage” on third and final reading last March 19.

The grounds for divorce in the bill include reasons stated for legal separation and annulment under the Family Code of the Philippines, psychological incapacity, gender reassignment surgery, irreconcilable differences and separation for at least five years. The bill also aims to make divorce proceedings affordable by waiving filing and lawyers’ fees.

The Philippines and Vatican are the only two countries in the world without a law on divorce.

Since the family is the smallest unit of the society, a broken marriage may lead to a broken family and society, Naboya said.

Existing laws provide options for legal separation, annulment and in the case of the Church, declaration of nullity.

Critics however claim these procedures are time-consuming and costly.

Gatdula stressed that strict requirements of the Church for dissolving marriages preserve the permanent character of marriages.

Iniimbita mo `yung mga tao na since alam mo na hindi naman permanente, madali kaming maghiwalay. [T]hen, it’s also being able to withstand ups and downs of life, na hindi [dahil] convenient, `yun agad ang pupuntahan nating paraan,” Gatdula told the Varsitarian.

Long-term solutions

Naboya noted the lack of participation of married couples in Church programs and organizations like Couples for Christ, Christian Family Movement and Marriage Encounter seminars.

“It is a way of spiritualizing married couples, to make God the center of their commitment in marriage. They ignore the benefits of joining these organizations which are God-centered. [S]ince they received the sacrament in the Church, which is from God, the spiritual element of such commitment must be given major consideration,” Naboya said in an interview.

Pabillo said Church marriage is a holy sacrament that gives grace, and called on Catholics to be more concerned about the sacrament than the “externalities.”

Ang tingin kasi nila kapag kinasal sa simbahan, kailangan ng damit, kailangan pang imbitahan ang mga ninong at ninang, kailangan pang maghanda. [M]as gusto nila yung maraming props na talagang babayaran,” he said.

Early catechesis on responsibilities marriage entails, as well as marriage counseling, are keys to build stronger families, he added..

Mula sa kabataan, turuan na ang mga tao tungkol sa kasal na `yun ay isang serious na responsibilidad. [Strengthen] our family apostolate. [’Y]an ay hamon sa atin ng Simbahan – na dapat tulungan natin ang mga pamilya, accompany them lalung-lalo na sa mga pamilyang may nga problema,” he said. 

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