Children having children

Children having children

This lone adolescent* voice captured by UNFPA's annual report on global population is sadly replicated around the world. As Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy highlights, sexual violence and poverty are major causes of early pregnancy, especially in developing countries.

The World Health Organisation warns that many young women's first sexual experience is "forced", leaving them vulnerable to pregnancy. Reportedly 50 per cent of sexual assaults around the world are against girls below age 16. Forced sex and sexual violence also occur within marriage, and studies show girls who are forced into early marriages are most vulnerable.

Yet, many societies still blame only the girl for getting pregnant, notes UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, "The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl's control. It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care."

As evidence shows, adolescent pregnancy has long-lasting social and physical impacts on the young girls. With adolescents making up 18 per cent of the world's population, motherhood in childhood is an urgent global problem.

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