youth
Is Sri Lanka seeing an upsurge of teenage pregnancies?
by Parakum Jayasinghe
February 3, 2017

A 15 years old girl of Ella area in Badulla delivered a baby recently just after she had sit for the G.C.E. Ordinary Level examination.  A 23-year-old man was arrested for statutory rape.

The girl either did not know or hid that she had been pregnant and the delivery had taken place unattended at home, as media reported. Police said to media that the midwife of the area had also helped to conceal the pregnancy.

February 2nd Lankadeepa Sinhala daily reported another similar incident in which a 29-year-old man had raped a 16-year-old girl in Kuliyapitiya.  The girl lived with her single mother. The rape took place before she had gone for a foreign employment two months ago. The suspect is a priest of fane to which the child was taken by her mother. The man later singled out the girl and abused her at a hotel in Kurunegala.  The victim has dropped out of school at grade 6 and now she is four months pregnant.

The latest incident was reported from a major hospital in the island (the name of the hospital is withheld on ethical grounds). A 12-year-old girl who is now seven months pregnant, presumably raped by her stepfather, is being treated in this hospital.

All these girls hail from poor families and low educational backgrounds. They will end up as teenage mothers who will lose chances for fulfilling their potentials both as children and youth.  Before that they risk their health and even lives due to pregnancies before they mature. One of these girls apparently delivered at home unattended by trained health staff.

Incidents of teenage pregnancies reported too often in media indicate many drawbacks in terms of reproductive rights and reproductive health education.

Four percent out of the 112 maternal deaths which took place in 2014 were teenagers. According to UNICEF estimates of 2015, at least 20,780 girls between 12 to 17 years of age are either married or cohabit.

Family Health Bureau statistics reveal that 5.3% of the pregnant women registered annually are young girls below 20 years.

Speaking on fertility and nuptiality at UNFPA Generation to Generation Dialogue, Prof. de Silva pointed out that Sri Lanka’s mean age of marriage had gone up .  “Sri Lanka’s mean age of marriage was 26 years for female in mid-1990s. But according to the 2012 population census, this has decreased to 23.4 years,” he pointed out.

Teenage pregnancies and child marriages are two reasons for that.

(Cover Photo: Back in 1939, a little Peruvian girl named Lina Medina gave birth to a healthy baby boy. She was only five-years-old then.)

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Parakum Jayasinghe
Blogging for Social Change
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