By Dr Lopamudra Priyadarshini
If you think the title of this article wrong, then you must read the article till the end, consider all the mentioned aspects and then share your conclusion in the comment section.
“Children are the gift of God”, “Pregnancy is a miracle”, “More children mean a better fortune”; you will find too many people claiming such statements on how kids are really important or why one should have several kids. Not denying that kids are innocent, a reflection of God, and the future of our world, but looking past the wall of happiness, there lies the grim reality of the country.
Teenage Pregnancies in India: A Curse
India, a country where talking about sex is a taboo, ironically has the second largest population in the world. If that wasn’t all, we have over 4.85 crore pregnancies every year, out of which, more than half are unintended, and shockingly over 1.6 crores are teenage pregnancies. (Source) From the world’s total teenage pregnancies, India has over 11% of the cases each year, and at what cost?
The impact of teenage pregnancy is not limited to the family of the expecting mother alone, but to the country at large. It is a curse for teenage girls as their body is not ready to bear the child yet, resulting in the death of these underage mothers and their babies. Further, the issues include:
- Underweight babies due to underdeveloped pelvis
- Prolonged labour
- Post-partum haemorrhage
- Poor maternal weight gain
- Baby dying in a few weeks
- Anaemia to the mother
- Organ damage
- Protein loss through urine
- Post-partum depression
Now imagine about 1.6 million women across the country trying to access the public health system for the treatment, how that will overload the system and considering the way Indian health system functions, the loss of lives every year speaks for the rest of the problem. Teenage pregnancy isn’t merely a public health pain area, but a socio-psychological issue for the mother, society and the country at large. Such pregnancies are a result of poor education and low socio-economic status of families.
Teenage Pregnancies in India: A Boon
What is the reason for teen pregnancies in the first place? The answer is simple and blunt, child marriages. If there were no child marriages, teen pregnancies would have ended, but in a country where 27% of girls are married before their 18th, what is to be expected out of such unsuitable unions. In order to understand the reason for teen pregnancies, we need to reach the grassroots level of child marriages. These early unions are a result of many factors, discussed in details here as well. The major reasons include lack of education, relatives, cultural practices and the chauvinist male dominating society.
If you think this is a problem that only rural India deals with, I personally have witnessed girls in 6th standard with ‘sindoor’ in their hair and pregnant. This isn’t a story from a slum or village without electricity, but from a well-known and lavish area of New Delhi. One of these young girls, not exactly knowing about the concept of pregnancy, goes to the school washroom due to abdominal pain and delivers her baby there only. Scared of what happened, she runs away and the school authority dumps the stillborn to avoid any controversy.
Seeing from the point of view of a young girl living in a slum or a village who has just attained puberty and her body has started developing, she is going to face a lot of unwanted attraction from the boys and men from the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, her uncles will be at the top of this unwanted attention list, who would be eyeing on her as she grows in the same house. One day, someone or the other will try to molest or rape her, and with this fear in the mind of her parents, she is married off at a very young age, as these unwanted men will stop prying on her once she is married.
Another unfortunate aspect is the cultural practices such as the ‘Girl Stealing’ practice in some villages of India, where men as old as in the late 40s will simply abduct the girl they like, as young as 14, to marry her. This marriage obviously isn’t the outcome of a love story, but a pure act of their daemonic sexual appetite and paedophilia. And to avoid such circumstances, the parents of young girls are forced to marry them at a very young age to avoid abduction and forced marriage (marital rapes).
Now, if you think from the aspect of these young girls who breathe and live under the fear of getting raped every second of their life, and the only solution they think to avoid all this is by getting married, is it not a boon for them. For you must consider that many of such young brides do get away from the eyes of the predators, eventually landing into another grave danger of teenage pregnancy. Yet, we hear lesser cases of mothers getting raped, so perhaps is this why at times they willingly give themselves and their bodies to be impregnated? To get safety from rapes? Is this how low we have reached?