Teenage Pregnancy – It’s Hard to Raise a Child when You’re a Child

“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.”

— Laura Stavoe Harm

But what if a woman is still a child? Can she be called strong enough then too?

Surely the answer will differ if it’s a teen girl who is pregnant.

At the point when a young girl gets pregnant, her life can change fundamentally, her education may end and her prospects for employment diminish. She turns out to be progressively defenceless against neediness and rejection, and her wellbeing regularly endures. Pregnancy and childbirth complications among teenage girls are the biggest cause of mortality for adolescent girls. Teenage pregnancy is commonly not the after-effect of an intentional decision as these girls have little say over the choices influencing their lives. Or maybe, early pregnancy is an outcome of practically zero access to school, information or medical services.

Around 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth every day in developing countries. This contributes to the birth of 7.3 million a year.[1] So, if all conceptions, not just births, are counted, then the rate of teenage pregnancies is even greater.

Teenage pregnancy rates are higher in communities where girls are traditionally married young, and where they are expected to bear children as soon as they are able. Countries where teenage marriages are normal generally report higher rates of teen pregnancy. Early marriage and abortion are more popular in traditional rural regions in the Indian subcontinent than in cities. [2]Many teens are not taught about birth control methods and how to cope with peers who pressurize them to have sex before they’re ready.[3] In some sub-Saharan African countries, early pregnancy is often seen as a blessing because it is proof of the young woman’s fertility.

Economic factors often affect the decision to have babies. In social orders where youngsters are set to work at an early age, it is monetarily appealing to have numerous kids. In cultures where teenage marriages are less common, such as many developed countries, early-term puberty and lack of availability of contraception measures can be factors in teen pregnancy.[4]Many Western countries have established sex education programmes, the main objective of which is to reduce unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. One research showed that teenage mother’s younger sisters were less likely to stress the importance of schooling and work and were more likely to support human sexual activity, parenting and marriage at younger ages.

In addition to being more vulnerable to high-risk activities younger brothers have also been shown to be more tolerant of non-marital and early births.[5] Child marriage, coercive sexual practices and sexual orientation-based savagery are all infringement of human rights. So, if the refusal of information is making boundaries to get successful contraception and safe premature birth (to the extent of the law) as a result of a girl’s age or marital status it should not happen.[6]

Causes of teenage pregnancy

  • Child Marriage
  • Gender inequality
  • Obstacles to human rights
  • Poverty
  • Sexual violence and coercion
  • Lack of access to education and reproduction[7]

Legislations which can help in reducing teenage pregnancy

Laws banning child marriage

In Indian society and culture child marriage as a practice is not recent. Child marriage can be described as a solemn marriage between two persons in which the female is under the age of 18 years and the male is under 21 years. Child marriages are usually held in rural areas where there is widespread economic hardship and illiteracy.

Numerous components effectuate child marriage, for example, obliviousness social traditions and conventions, low degree of education and think women to be a budgetary weight. Child marriages have their repercussions, for example, medical issues to girls because of early pregnancies, further weakening the status of women and n endless loop of sex imbalance follow.

Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

The act visualizes forestalling child marriages with upgraded disciplines of thorough detainment for two years and or fine of Rs.1 Lakh.[8]

Laws addressing Sexual violence

Sexual assault is any unwanted and forced sexual behaviour which occurs without the consent of a person. It may occur between two persons in a romantic relationship and can also occur between friends, family members, strangers or acquaintances.

POCSO Act, 2012

It was born out of the need to enact new legislation to tackle the increasing sexual exploitation of children in the form of abuses such as rape, pornography multiple types of penetration and also criminalizes acts of immodesty against children. Child Sex Abuse is considered as the most horrifying wrongdoing which can be done to a child as the offender knows that the constrained sex which he did with the younger one is done by restricting child’s defencelessness and trust and is presenting child under grave injury which isn’t only a physical assault on its body and private arts yet in addition upsetting a child’s brain so conspicuously that it can take a lifetime for the child to feel normal ever after that misuse.[9]

Reasons for this enactment

The deficiency of Indian Penal Code and absence of any rigid enactment for viably tending to and handling egregious wrongdoings, for example, sexual misuse and sexual maltreatment of youngster birthed the initiation of POCSO Act,2012 as the very expectation of Government foundations was to shield children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and to encourage satisfactory legitimate hardware by building up special courts for trial of such offences and matters connected with child sexual abuse crimes.

This act makes abetment of child sexual abuse an offence under Section 17 of the Act and is punishable under Section 18 of the Act with the detainment of the length specified for crime, for a term that may extend to one-half of the life imprisonment or, as the case may be, one- half of the longest period o imprisonment specified for that offence or fine or both.

Laws relating to adolescent pregnancy

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971

Section 3 of this act states that a pregnancy can be terminated by a registered medical practitioner –

  • Where the length of the pregnancy does not exceed twelve weeks that too with the opinion of one practitioner.
  • Where the length of the pregnancy surpasses twelve weeks however doesn’t surpass twenty weeks that too with the opinion of two medical practitioners.[10]

*Although a teenager cannot abort the child it can be done if the legal guardian of the teenager gives consent. This is mentioned in Section 3 sub-clause 4 of the MTP Act, 1971.

Government is also working for the benefit of women as Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill,2020 was presented which amends the provision to get the pregnancy terminated within twelve weeks. The bill mentions that pregnancy can be terminated within twenty weeks with the opinion of a licensed medical practitioner and approval of two medical practitioners is required if pregnancy is between twenty to twenty-four weeks.[11]

Judiciary’s Role

The Indian Judiciary plays a major role to provide justice to every citizen whether it’s an adult or a child.

This can be seen through the latest judgment of Bombay High Court on 28th of May, 2020 where the court enabled a teenager ( a thirteen old girl who was sexually abused by her stepfather which led to her pregnancy) to terminate her pregnancy medically that too when the pregnancy exceeded the period of twenty weeks.[12]

Conclusion

Pregnancy before a girl physically, developmentally and socially imperils her entitlement to a sheltered effective change into adulthood. A girl’s pregnancy mirrors the failure of everyone around her who could protect her privileges, including her right to protection from abuse to education and to get sexual and regenerative wellbeing administrations and data. As these girls generally have no say about whether, when and whom they will wed, they likewise have no say about whether and when to start childbearing. Adolescent girls are forming humankind’s present and future. Contingent upon their chances and decisions, they can start adulthood as enabled and dynamic residents, or become disregarded, voiceless and dug in destitution.

An increasingly all-encompassing methodology is required to help young girls and empower them to avoid early pregnancy. Such a methodology ought to incorporate comprehensive sexuality education for youngsters; invest in women education especially through the secondary level; prevent early and constrained child marriage, savagery, and coercion; creating gender-inclusive communities by encouraging girls and involving males too; initiatives to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health information for youth, as well as programs that accommodate them and make their decisions easier.


[1]https://www.unfpa.org/adolescent-pregnancy

[2]Mehta, Suman; Groenen, Riet; Roque, Francisco (1998). “Adolescents in Changing Times: Issues and Perspectives for Adolescent Reproductive Health in The ESCAP Region”.United Nations Social and Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific. 

[3]MacLeod, C. (1999). “The ‘Causes’ of Teenage Pregnancy: Review of South African Research – Part 2”. South African Journal of Psychology.

[4] Beginning Too Soon: Adolescent Sexual Behaviour, Pregnancy and Parenthood, US Department of Health and Human Services.

[5] East PL (1996). “Do adolescent pregnancy and childbearing affect younger siblings?” Family Planning Perspectives

[6]https://www.unfpa.org/publications/girlhood-not-motherhood

[7]https://www.unfpa.org/adolescent-pregnancy

[8]http://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A2007-06.pdf

[9]https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/POCSO-ModelGuidelines.pdf

[10]http://tcw.nic.in/Acts/MTP-Act-1971.pdf

[11]https://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/medical-termination-pregnancy-amendment-bill-2020

[12]https://www.indialegallive.com/constitutional-law-news/courts-news/bombay-hc-allows-medical-termination-of-pregnancy-of-a-teenage-girl-

Vanshika Rana from Symbiosis Law School, Noida

Find her here

4 thoughts on “Teenage Pregnancy – It’s Hard to Raise a Child when You’re a Child

  1. It’s very difficult to talk about this matter in India, but you will do an excellent job to wrote an article about this subject. My Heartly regards to U.

    Liked by 1 person

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