VICIOUS CIRCLE BEHIND ADOLESCENT PREGNANCIES

Tanaka Mahanya

EARLY exposure to pornographic and sexually-oriented materials, through increased and unrestricted access to smartphones, is an emerging key driver of adolescent pregnancy.

The National Assessment on Adolescent Pregnancies in Zimbabwe revealed that ‘Vuzu’ or school leavers’ parties are high-risk events at which adolescents are consciously, or unconsciously, initiated into drugs.

“Drugs and substance use was noted to be affecting adolescents and young people regardless of age, gender and location.

“Use of drugs and substances was cited as making adolescents high and thereby limiting their capacity to negotiate for safer sex or to access sexual and reproductive health services (SRHR).

“Prohibition of corporal punishment in schools, limited parent-child communication on SRHR, limited youth recreational facilities, Covid-19 and social and religious norms were among the key adolescent pregnancy drivers,” reads the National Assessment on Adolescent Pregnancies in Zimbabwe study.

The study also found that lack of parental care and supervision, because of parents’ long working hours and prolonged absence from home, fueled adolescent pregnancies through consensual casual sex, transactional sex and sexual abuse.

“The prevailing economic recession which led to poverty, unemployment, depletion of family savings, falling prices of their agricultural produce and migration of parents and caregivers have been cited as key drivers of adolescent pregnancy.

“The upsurge in parental migration has undermined family structures leaving children alone or under the care of de facto caregivers thereby increasing children’s vulnerability to risky sexual behaviour and sexual abuse.”

This vulnerability often leads to transactional sex, where adolescents engage in sexual activity in exchange for goods or services, such as money, food or shelter.

This can perpetuate the cycle of poverty and exploitation as these adolescents are at heightened risk for sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and emotional trauma.

Sexual abuse is also a significant issue, as adolescents often lack the power and agency to resist advances from older or more powerful individuals.

They may also be hesitant to speak out against abuse, as they fear retribution or stigmatisation.

Efforts to address adolescent pregnancy, and its associated risks must, therefore, take into account the complex interplay between economic, social, and cultural factors that contribute to these issues.

Education, access to healthcare and community engagement are crucial components of any strategy to promote adolescent health and well-being.

 

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