At least one in 10 adolescents in Peru is pregnant or already a mother, a proportion that has not decreased for thirty years, which raised the concern of specialists this Saturday, the central day of the week of the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy (PEA).
While in these last three decades Peru has achieved notable decreases in its rates of poverty, anemia and chronic child malnutrition, adolescent pregnancies have remained unalterable and even slightly above from the figures of the early 1990s.
If at the beginning of that decade the adolescent pregnancy rate was around 11%, now it is 12.6%, according to the latest official data released in 2018 in the Demographic and Family Health Survey of the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (INEI).
This is equivalent to more than 122,000 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 They were already mothers in the last national census that was carried out in 2017, some of them with more than one child.
“Is inadmissible that is the only indicator that has been maintained for 30 years, “Susana Chávez, executive director of the Center for the Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (Promsex), said in an interview.
Although the official figures do not reflect it, the problem also affects the under 15 years, since during 2018 they were registered in Peru 2,325 births to mothers of adolescents between 12 and 14 years old, an average of at least six daily.
The long-awaited decline in teenage pregnancies has not occurred even after doubled public spending for its prevention between 2012 and 2018, from 10 to 25 million soles (from 2.78 to about 7 million dollars).
For Chávez, current situation is much worse because, unlike in 1990, now adolescents have greater access to contraceptive methods, technology, information and the media. “And nothing has changed. That is why I say that there is a worsening of the situation,” he said.
Possible increase due to the pandemic
Teen pregnancies are more frequent in adolescent girls living in households below the poverty line and in rural areas, where the average shoots up to affect almost one in four women between 15 and 19 years old.
For this reason, Chávez warned that, far from reducing the rate of teenage pregnancies in the coming years, there will be a increase accompanied by the rebound in economic poverty, product of the crisis caused by Covid-19.
“What happens in our reality is that the majority of teenagers who get pregnant they stay alone in their family’s house, which widens the cycle of poverty in that home, “said the executive director of Promsex.
Stated that 80% of adolescent girls who get pregnant “does not return to school. They are people who are going to enter the precarious and informal labor market because they have no chance of becoming professional or improving. “
This was also stated on Thursday by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), by ensuring that “adolescent motherhood negatively impacts women’s development opportunities, limits the exercise of their rights and contributes to the intergenerational transmission of poverty and vulnerability “.
Data shows that women who had their first child in adolescence achieve lower levels of education and are more prone to unemployment or to access precarious jobs with lower wages.
In this pandemic context, UNFPA estimated that almost 120,000 young people and adolescents from Peru will stop the use of contraception this year, which can lead to more than 15,000 unwanted pregnancies and 7,000 abortions.
Punished abortion and controversial law
Precisely the criminalization of abortion -practice punishable in Peru with imprisonment from one to five years, with the exception of the therapeutic one for cases in which the mother’s life is in danger- is one of the reasons that, in Chávez’s opinion, has contributed to the fact that the figures do not fall of teenage pregnancies.
“Considering abortion as a crime and not as a public and reproductive health problem has been extremely harmful. It has been wrongly included in the penal code. (…) This forces women to resort to unsafe and dangerous practices, such as clandestine abortions, “Chávez said.
Likewise, between 2006 and 2014 a “nefarious law” promoted by ultra-conservative sectors that considered any sexual relationship as rapewith minors under 18 years, however consensual it was.
“The measure did not imply that the adolescents postponed the beginning of their sexual life until they came of age and all it did was establish a concept of illegality in reproductive health services, particularly for family planning, “said Chávez.
This was corroborated by the Ombudsman’s Office in a report last year in which it found that 36% of 91 supervised health establishments did not have a training plan in adolescent sexual and reproductive health and that 25% did not provide information to this population because they were not accompanied by their parents.
In this sense, Chávez highlighted the difficulties distributing emergency oral contraceptives, because “still until this year serious problems have been reported”
In his opinion, “the State has to be aware of his failure with teens. That they comply with their normative documents and have the financial backing. “