Earlier this year, news of a 10 year-old pregnant girl in Paraguay sparked global outrage and a fierce debate over the country’s abortion law. The young girl had been raped, allegedly by her stepfather, but Paraguayan health officials denied her an abortion since it conflicted with national law. Organizations around the world, like Amnesty International, vehemently spoke out against the decision, calling Paraguay’s anti-abortion law “draconian” and demanded that the pregnancy be terminated. The young girl gave birth in August.
The case cast an important light on the growing problem of young pregnancies in Latin America, where births to girls under 15 are actually expected to rise. But of all the countries in the region, Guatemala has probably struggled the most with a teen pregnancy crisis.
In 2012, Guatemala was said to have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in all of Latin America. According to Guatemala’s Reproductive Health Observatory, last year alone saw 17,000 girls between ages 10 and 19 become pregnant in Guatemala, 5,000 of which were under the age of 15.
Cultural practices, coupled with a broken political system, have cultivated an environment where young pregnancies are often accepted in Guatemala, especially among its indigenous communities, which are also the poorest. Girls from these regions are pressured to find an economically stable husband at a young age, and the law allows it: the legal age to marry in Guatemala is 14 with parental consent.
But many experts say it’s the lack of education, specifically sexual education in the country, that is to blame for the increasing pregnancies, and that both the Catholic Church and the government are inhibiting progress.
Fusion’s Alicia Menendez was in Guatemala to talk to a number of young mothers, an education specialist, and Guatemala’s Archbishop to get at the heart of this disturbing cultural epidemic.
Watch Fusion’s full investigation into why Guatemala faces a teen pregnancy crisis
Part 1: The impact of Guatemalan culture on teen pregnancies
Part 2: Guatemala’s broken political system is hurting its young, indigenous women
Fusion partnered with the UN millenium project to cover this story and the UN foundation contributed funding.
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