Teenage pregnancy: A growing concern!

There is a growing concern on teenage pregnancy in this country. The increasing number of teenage pregnancies annually is very alarming. The Mauritius Family Planning Welfare Association (MFPWA) reported that since the beginning of the year,35 young pregnant teens  have been sexually abused. The majority of the victims are between 12 and 15 years old.

From January to March 2016, the MFPWA has recorded 96 girls who have been sexually abused, with 45 reported cases of teenage pregnancy. In 2017, 208 cases of teenage pregnancies have been registered against 147 in 2015 The situation is worsening over the years. We have alarming figures facing us. It is time to act said the President of MFPWA.

The basic facts and figures on sexual and reproductive health issues pertaining to youth aged 10—24 years in Mauritius are overwhelming. The World Health Organisation defines adolescence as a period of time between the ages 10—19 years. Today there are 1.5 billion of young people aged between 10—24 years, 84% of them live in developing countries. In the year 2025, there will be 2 billion youth in this age bracket.

In all societies, adolescents undergo physical and emotional changes they may not understand. They are very susceptible to lots of pressure. They may also feel invincible and fail to understand the possible consequence of actions that put them at great risks.

For these reasons, adolescents may be exposed to many reproductive health problems: sexually transmitted diseases (STD) including HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions etc… In fact one out of twenty teenagers in the world contracts a STD annually. Maternal mortality for women between 15 to 19 worldwide is twice as high as those above their 20’s due to complications related to pregnancy, child birth and unsafe abortions.

With the advent of industrialization and social changes taking place in Mauritius, it is observed that many traditional values and structures are being eroded. Loss  of parental control in many cases is a growing concern. Increasing rates of sexuality, pregnancy etc… have become real issues among adolescents.

The statistical division of the Ministry of Health in Mauritius registered many cases of pregnancy among women aged below 15 years in 2015. 126 cases of teenage pregnancy have been recorded in Rodrigues during the same year.

In 2015, out of 23,870 live births in Mauritius, 10,076 were from youths aged 15—24 years and in Rodrigues out of 795 live births, 396 were from youths of the same age. Adolescent pregnancies do often happen in poor, uneducated and rural communities. Some girls may face social pressure to marry and once married to have children.

More than 30% of girls in low and middle income countries marry before they are 18; around 14% before they are 15. Some girls do not know how to avoid getting pregnant. Sex education is lacking in many countries, including Mauritius. They may feel too inhibited or ashamed to seek contraception services. Contraceptives may be too expensive or not widely or legally available.

Sexual education is important to combat teenage pregnancy. Teenagers must be educated and informed about how to avoid risky sexual  behaviour and how to use contraceptives correctly. They need basic information about how to protect themselves and their reproductive health. Teenagers must develop skills in communication and sexual decision making so that sex does not just “happen”. Let us not forget that sex education should start at home where parents can play their parts and contributions in this field.

          By Ahmad Macky