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Update sex health laws

Teens need to be empowered, says Ferdinand

Local legislation has to be updated to empower the island’s adolescents to take control of issues related to their sexuality.

As debate on youth sexuality continues, Senior Medical Health Officer
Dr Elizabeth Ferdinand said results of the latest Global School Health Survey could not be ignored if the issues were to be really dealt with.

Speaking at the launch of the 2013 State of the World Population Report on Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy at UN House, Ferdinand said the launch was significant coming amid the local debates on youth sexuality.

Ferdinand pointed out as well that across the Caribbean, very few adolescents in many countries actually had access to sexual and reproductive health services.

“The restriction of the age of sexual consent, which is 16, versus the age of access to health care, which is 18 years, has major implications for our older adolescents,” she said.

“I see adolescent pregnancy as really a reflection of the society as a whole. The behaviour of the young girls, the behaviour of the boys, also the parents of the girls as well as the wider society, all must take responsibility for this.

“How can we tackle the problem? This must be seen from four main areas: reducing early sexual initiation; effective legislation and targeted social programmes; building a sense of community vigilance, and zero tolerance for any type of predators.”

She said stronger legislation to punish predators and protect the young people was needed.

“Our legislation has to be updated to give the young person the ability to access services when they need them and to empower them to have control over their sexuality. We have to find ways to get the community more protective of our young girls. We must ensure they have the information to know about reproduction and be well informed of the consequences of having sex and the resulting outcomes,” she said.

She expressed the hope that the launch would provide the avenue to focus positively on adolescence.

“It is not unexpected that experimentation in sexuality could lead to adolescent pregnancy,” she said, adding the survey on young people ages 13 to 15 and covering areas such as nutrition, drugs, hygiene, sexual activity, and tobacco use showed more boys often had sex than girls.

“Boys were significantly more likely than girls to having been sexually active, or to having initiated sexual activity before 14 years of age, or to have had two or more sexual partners.”

She said that 44.9 per cent of males and 25.4 per cent of female indicated that they have had sexual intercourse, adding that because of these statistics, adolescent pregnancies, described as pregnancies among girls between
10 and 19, could occur.

Early sexual initiation, sexual abuse, poverty, low educational attainment, low access to health services and contraceptive methods, she said had been proven to be among the main reasons as well for adolescent pregnancies.

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