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Teen pregnancy figures have not reduced in 25 years
Magali Zevallos Ríos
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Lack of comprehensive sex education and nonexistent prevention campaigns are the leading cause for an increased incidence of pregnancies in girls 11 to 15.

There is a persistent prevalence of adolescent pregnancy in Peru. The indicators have not lowered for 25 years now; on the contrary, there has been a 2.1 percent increase observed, going from 12.5 percent in 2011 to 14.6 percent in 2014, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (INEI). The estimation is that at the moment there are 207,800 adolescents of 15 to 19 years old who are mothers or are going through a first pregnancy.

“There is no comprehensive approach to public policies in order to reverse the indicators; the assigned budget is insufficient by all means. To begin with, there is no specific budget assigned for the reduction of teen pregnancy; we are putting at risk the development of thousands of Peruvian women in the country,” says to Latinamerica Press Rossina Guerrero, Director of Political Advocacy of the Center for the Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (Promsex).

The study conducted by Doctor Luis Távara ,“Impact of Pregnancy on the Health of Adolescent Women in Peru,” published in 2015, warns that this prevalence is observed with big differences by education level, geographical environment (urban and rural) and by poverty quintiles, despite different strategies having been applied to face this problem — since 2013 the Peruvian state has had a multi-sectoral plan for the prevention of teen pregnancy (2013-2021), and since last year the Ministry of Health has had a Technical Norm of Family Planning that establishes that there is now no minimum age to have access to contraceptive methods — and all establishments are obligated to provide comprehensive family planning services when an adolescent so requests it.

Guerrero says that unfortunately, this plan has not led to the progress and protection of adolescent girls. Teen pregnancy is the second cause for school drop out in the country: 25 percent; in other words, more than a million adolescents end up outside of the education system; and later the teen mothers have to work in low-paid jobs to be able to support their children, something that condemns them to poverty.

One of the biggest problems identified by the experts is that the state is only looking at the problem from a health standpoint. Távara stresses that the handling of this issue by the state has been unisectoral and not cross-sectoral, while Irene Del Mastro, who has a Master in Gender Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, points out to Latinamerica Press that the problem not only boils down to access to health and contraceptive methods.

“The approach taken by the state has not solved a thing,” says Del Mastro. “For 25 years now the figures have been the same; in 25 years they have oscillated between 12 percent and 14 percent, that is to say, there has been no change at all.”

Conservatism on the attack
Childbearing starts earlier and earlier in the country. Each day 15 girls of  between 11 and 15 years old become mothers; this according to the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (RENIEC), with a higher incidence in the Peruvian jungle: 40 percent average.

In his study, Távara warns that there is little political will coming from the Ministry of Education to implement sex education at all levels of education.

For Del Mastro, “the root problem is that there is no comprehensive sex education in the country. Education is one of the main pillars needed to reverse this structural problem; and if the focus on sex education does get implemented in the education curriculum, we will not see the results in 20 years,” adding that control of sexuality exists in schools and homes. “We don’t talk to young people about sex; we don’t see sex between young people as something natural for a matter of conservatism.”

“There is a need to provide sex education,” says Guerrero. “More than just learning about contraceptive methods, an education coming from the school is necessary so that all students can talk with teachers about these issues and they can also talk to their parents. Adolescents are starting their sexual activity without preventing an unwanted pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease, which is also a serious problem.”

To the lack of comprehensive sex education, experts add that there is now a lot of pressure coming from religious groups that want to impose a non secular policy on sexuality and reproduction which is not respectful of rights.

Organizations such as Promsex, Study for the Defense of Women’s Rights (DEMUS), and the Center of Peruvian Women Flora Tristán have denounced repeatedly that there are political forces in Congress, with a strong influence from the Catholic and Evangelist Churches, that have been imposing an agenda that could influence the public policies, such as are the access to sexual health and reproductive services, comprehensive sex education and the prevention of sexual violence.

“There are constant attacks by anti-rights groups in the country against the implementation of public policies that would make a positive impact when it comes to preventing and lowering teen pregnancies. The Congress cannot interfere in public policy. If we do not become aware of the impact that pressure from these religious groups can have, we are going to end up with higher indicators than what we have now,” Guerrero warns.

Sexual violence
Another alarming figure is that Peru occupies the first place in Latin America as the country where more sexual violence cases are reported. Each year the Public Ministry receives approximately 1,500 complaints from Peruvian women. According to statistics from DEMUS, 75 percent of reported rape cases are of underage girls.

According to data from the Peruvian National Police, on a daily basis five girls between the ages of 10 and 14 become mothers as a result of a rape.

“Although there are no statistics on how many young girls may have wanted to have an abortion, there is the matter of a lack of reproductive justice in Peru. Our country has a class-based and elitist society, because there is no access to safe abortion, and this is a way to condemn poor women to reproductive consequences that they have no possibility to revert,” says Del Mastro.

The study “Impact of Pregnancy on the Health of Adolescent Women in Peru” states that teen pregnancy is considered one of public health problems that are more prevalent and of most importance that affect Peruvian women in three facets: physical, mental and social.

For Guerrero, the country has an enormous challenge ahead that must be taken on in a cross-sectoral manner, and working closely with the ministries of Women, Education, Health and Labor.

“We must really strengthen our public systems and strengthen the state as guarantors of rights, and this implies better education and better health services. Health operators have many preconceived prejudices regarding the rights that adolescents have to gain access to family planning methods. In order to assert the fulfillment of rights, resources  are needed, budget is needed,” she says. —Latinamerica Press.


Teen pregnancy is the cause for why 25 percent of adolescent girls drop out of school. / proycontra.com.pe
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