“I was so scared to lose him and this is one of the reasons, I thought if I didn’t accept his sexual request, I would have lost him. As usual I hid these things from my parents.”
Teenage pregnancy is a problem that many countries seem to be grappling with, regardless of their level of modernization or development. In India, there are 62 pregnant teens for every 1000 women, whereas the number is 42 and 24 for the US and the UK respectively.
Below are certain factors which may explain this rise, or rather constancy of teenage pregnancy rates from 1987 till now.
- Poverty seems to be one of the biggest contributing factors to teenage pregnancy, be it the US or India.
- Poverty means that the girl does not get the chance to develop herself and her knowledge of her body as well as the means available to her to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
- She may also get irresponsible partners and may not have a lot of choice in refusing them.
- Early marriages are also common in those from low SES and may account for teenage pregnancy.
- Illiteracy and poverty are tied up together. Illiterate women cannot access material and knowledge which can help them understand their bodies and the ways to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.
- Illiterate women are also more likely to hold rigid beliefs and not be able to tell if some professional is qualified or a quack and may suffer from a botchy abortion or birth.
- Illiterate women also seem to have less control on the use of contraception and are found to confirm more with the stereotypical notion that men decide in these matters.
- They are also less likely to have the confidence to visit a chemist or a doctor for their needs.
- Many teens who are aware of the role of contraception also find it difficult to gain access to it because of the stigmatic attitude of chemists and healthcare professionals.
- In many countries of the world sanitary napkin packets are still tied in newspapers and delivered in black plastic bags.
- These countries are yet to come to terms with a process as natural as menstruation, and so, comfort with teenagers using contraception is a far cry.
- Even qualified doctors have been reported to have judgemental attitudes towards teens seeking advice and medication.
Inability to confide in family
Though different countries have different legal system and family values but in many countries the situation is as following:
- Young girls often cannot confide in their family members about having a boyfriend or being pregnant.
- A woman under 16 years of age needs to legally have a guardian or parent with her for getting an abortion.
- These girls cannot confide in their family and hence can’t get abortion legally and this makes them either have the baby, adding to pregnancy rates, or go for unauthorized doctors and procedures that can harm them.
Fundamentalist religious and cultural beliefs
- Rigid cultural and religious beliefs don’t seem to be helping, because young people are still experimenting with sex.
- However, the culture or religion they come from determines whether they use contraception or not.
- Teens from fundamentalist background beliefs have found to not use contraception and thus get a raw deal.
What can we do to address this?
- We have to be a much more understanding society at a larger level, and good parents at a micro-level.
- Sex education does not teach children to go have sex (it’s a natural curiosity, they are going to go and try it anyway regardless of what you do), but it does teach them to do it safely.
- We need to provide information, advice and guidance so that they can trust us, and unplanned pregnancies can thus be avoided.