EFE | Santo Domingo – October 11, 2022
Marking the International Day of the Girl in the calendar is an urgent necessity as a formula for 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 rightsare normalized and the communities that promote and practice them are not really aware of the consequences they leave on these young people and their environment, explained to EFE the country representative of the United Nations Population Fund (Unfpa), Sonia Vazquez. ..
Unions and pregnancy in girls and adolescents
The Dominican Republic tops the charts of the region 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 suffering from violence, based on gender, situations that are perpetuated 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 is many stereotypes that determine the behavior of girls»he claims.
The fact that “the government has to think about what policies or programs it will launch” on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl, which is celebrated this October 11 and has been celebrated since 2012, “already justifies its existence,” Vazquez says. , which values progress such as the adoption of the law that prohibits child marriage in the country and the creation of a Cabinet for children and adolescents.
13% of Dominican girls start having sex before the age of 14, a “very high” figure that not only leads to a large number of teenage pregnanciesbut it also leads to premature alliances that find support in deep-seated ‘cultural patterns’.
69 births of teenage girls per day
For every thousand births registered in the Dominican Republic, 94.3 were from mothers between the ages of 15 and 19more than double the global teenage pregnancy rate (42), according to the World Bank.
In 2021 in the Dominican Public Health Services 25,190 children were born to teenage motherswhich equates to 22% of births in the country that year, 69 per day.
A recent study reveals this 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 who were between the ages of 20 and 24 joined or married before 18.
The most dramatic situation occurs in the poorest groups of the population, where necessity forces families to force their daughters to join. Juveniles assume that their purpose in life is to reproduce and depends on a man.
How to protect girls
“There is no better advocate for our girls than education. Quality education», which contributes to the postponement of all these types of behavior, but the country still has the challenge of improving education levels.
An initiative aimed at alleviating these educational gaps is Clubs for girls who create dreams, which have training workshops 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.
Other question is to “provide comprehensive sexuality education (…) and this is a matter of country. The Dominican state must decide at what point it considers it appropriate to start with a large-scale program,” believes the representative of Unfpaalthough he admits this “Families have every right to decide whether they want their children to receive sex education”a subject of strong opposition on religious grounds.
Another measure that has not been adequately developed is access to contraceptiveswithout which “there is no way to reduce these pregnancies”.
The 53% of young Dominicans did not use any protection on his first intercourseTherefore, the Ministry of Public Health should create a distribution channel to facilitate access to contraceptive methods for minors and improve existing ones, she says.
These issues will be addressed at an international forum to be held on October 11 and 12 in Santo Domingo with the aim of contribute to generating changes in social, cultural and gender norms which harm girls and their development as human beings.