Adolescent pregnancy is related to a “whole string of human rights violations” and so it must gain more attention in global development policy, says the UN’s World Population Monitoring Report.
The report, 'Motherhood in Childhood', released yesterday (30 October), shows that adolescent pregnancy perpetuates poverty and hampers development in poor countries.
Some 7.3 million teen women give birth every year. 2 million of these are under 15 years of age. Every day, roughly 5,000 girls give birth. Yearly, 70 million young women lose their lives during pregnancy and childbirth.
“Adolescent pregnancy is the reflection of a whole string of human rights violations,” explained Werner Haug, a director at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which published the report.
Gudrun Kopp, of the German Federal Development Ministry, said that girls pregnant between the ages of 10 and 15 faced the biggest danger as the risk of death during childbirth was five-times higher than for older women.
These statistics may only be the tip of the iceberg. Teen motherhood is the result of poverty, poor education and inadequate healthcare as well as discrimination and violence against women, Kopp said.
These interrelated problems can mutually reinforce each other, creating a domino effect. Once a girl has a child, her chances of gaining secondary education are drastically reduced. Secondary education is one of the main conditions to enable a self-determined life, Haug stressed.
“The rights of young girls cannot be trampled on any longer,” said Renate Bähr, the executive director of the German Foundation for World Population.
“Teen pregnancies can only be successfully avoided, when girls are given equal rights. Above all, they need better prospects on the labour market. In addition, the girls’ entire surroundings must be involved: their families, the partners, teachers and political decision-makers must all play a role.”
Kopp underlined a distinct example of sexual exploitation of young women in parts of Africa, the so-called “sugar daddies”. Older men wait in front of schools to pick up young girls after their classes to drive them home. In exchange for the service they expect sexual favours.
Parents are often completely oblivious. School buses could offer young girls safe and comfortable transportation and likewise put “sugar daddies” out of business, Kopp said.
Bähr congratulated the authors for their “brave report”, which she said shed light on deeper, interconnected problems. She said it “not only looks at the girls, but also at their surroundings”.
She continued urging the CDU and the SPD to raise the issue during coalition talks.