Day of the Girl: Fighting Early Unions and Teen Pregnancy

Santo Domingo, October 9 (EFE).- Marking the International Day of the Girl Child on the calendar is an urgent need as a formula to draw attention to the high rates of child marriage, early unions or teenage pregnancy in Latin American countries such as the Dominican Republic.

Part of Dominican society does not perceive these practices as a violation of rights, they are normalized, and the communities that promote and practice them do not really realize the consequences they leave on these young women and their environment, explained the representative in the country to EFE from the Fund of United Nations Population (Unfpa), Sonia Vasquez.

WIVES AND MOTHERS IN CHILDHOOD

The Dominican Republic tops the region’s lists in early unions and teenage pregnancy, the consequences of which are dropping out of school, more children, adolescent maternal mortality, greater poverty, less economic autonomy in the future or a greater risk of gender-based suffering based on violence, situations that perpetuate themselves in subsequent generations.

Although there is already a World Children’s Day (November 20), “the girl deserves her own day because these dates help make situations visible” and harmful practices. “In Dominican culture, there are many stereotypes that define the behavior of girls,” he claims.

The fact that “the government should think about what policies or programs it will launch” on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl, which will be held on October 11 and has been celebrated since 2012, “already justifies its existence,” said Vasquez. , who appreciated progress such as the adoption of the law that prohibits child marriage in the country and the creation of the Cabinet for Children and Adolescents.

13% of Dominican girls start having sex under the age of 14, a “very high” figure that not only leads to a high number of teenage pregnancies, but also leads to premature unions that find support in deep-rooted “cultural patterns”.

For every thousand births registered in the Dominican Republic, 94.3 are to mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, more than double the global teenage pregnancy rate (42), according to the World Bank.

In 2021, 25,190 children were born to adolescent mothers in Dominican public health services, which equates to 22% of births in the country that year, 69 per day.

A recent study revealed that girls and adolescents who become pregnant have 20% less income when they enter the labor market, the UNFPA representative explained.

Regarding early unions, the cause and effect of teenage pregnancy, according to data collected in 2019, 32% of women between the ages of 20 and 24 joined or married before the age of 18.

The most dramatic situation occurs in the poorest groups of the population, where necessity forces families to force their daughters to join. Juveniles believe that their purpose in life is to reproduce and depend on a male.

HOW TO KEEP THE GIRLS

“There is no better advocate for our girls than education. Quality Education’, which contributes to the postponement of this type of behavior, but the country still has the challenge of improving educational levels.

An initiative aimed at alleviating these educational deficiencies is the Clubs de Chicas Fabricando Sueños, which have training seminars on human rights, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health or violence prevention, among others, involving the community and families and in which 600 girls have already been trained.

Another issue is “providing comprehensive sexuality education (…) and this is a matter for the state. It’s up to the Dominican country to decide when it thinks it’s appropriate to start a large-scale program,” said the UNFPA representative, although he acknowledged that “families have every right to decide if they want their children to receive sex education,” meaning with strong opposition on a religious basis.

Another measure that is not sufficiently developed is access to contraceptives, without which “there is no way to reduce these pregnancies”.

53% of young Dominicans do not use any protection in their first sexual relationship, so the Ministry of Public Health must create a distribution channel to facilitate access to contraceptive methods for minors and improve the existing ones, he said.

These issues will be addressed at an international forum to be held on October 11 and 12 in Santo Domingo with the aim of contributing to changes in social, cultural and gender norms that harm girls and their development as human beings.

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