They seem to be invisible in the eyes of the State. They are aged between 10 and 14 years old. They should be at school, or doing the things girls do at their age. But motherhood has interrupted their adolescence.
In Argentina, there are seven girls each day who enter a delivery room. Every year, 2,500 babies are born to those aged under 15 years old in Argentina. It's a figure that has remained stable for at least two decades.
According to statistics from the Plan Nacional de Prevención del Embarazo No Intencional en la Adolescencia ("National Plan for the Prevention of Unintentional Pregnancy in Adolescence," Plan ENIA), these births are largely a result of incidents of sexual abuse or come from relationships which feature a significantly unequal power dynamic.
"The sustained number of early teenage pregnancies responds, above all, to the invisibility of cases of sexual abuse," Fernando Zingman, the head of the UNICEF Argentina's health programme, told Perfil in an interview.
Though an important percentage of these births correspond to a lack of information about sexual education, "the invisibility, the lack of commitment and the fear of a community to denounce situations of abuse and power asymmetries are the main challenge," he added.
Regarding teenagers aged between 15 and 19 years old, from 1980 to 2017, pregnancy rates have decreased slowly but continuously. Data from the Health Ministry indicates that in Argentina the birthrate among these women has fallen from 80 births per 1,000 to just over 53 per 1,000.
However, for those aged between 10 and 15 years, the figure has ranged between 1.5 and 1.9 births per 1,000 people for the last 20 years.
The situation worsens in terms of gaps and inequalities when one drills down into the data for the Northern provinces, where one in four babies are born to girls and adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years old.
For example, at the end of 2018, a school of 200 students in the Alto Comedero neighbourhood, in Jujuy, registered 30 pregnancies of students between 12 and 19 years old. The majority were products of abuse.
“We must emphasise that we are talking about forms of violence against girls. Failure to inform is violence, as is not reporting abuse,” said Mabel Bianco, the head of the Fundación para el Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer ("Foundation for the Study and Research of Women," FEIM).
“Obviously, something is happening in those provinces, or what should happen is not happening. This is unfortunate because, in addition to the biological risk, there is the psychosocial [aspect], because they are girls who are going to have to leave school, who are going to start working in unstable jobs and who will lose their adolescence,” added. Bell.
In a bid to improve and reverse this situation, FEIM, together with nine other civil society organisations, have launched an awareness campaign that runs until September 28. It intends to prevent unwanted adolescence pregnancies and goes under the banner of "#PuedoDecidir" ("I can decide"). The campaign is focused on the right of youngsters to choose how, when and who to have sex with.
“We want to make it possible for all boys and girls to decide and not be imposed upon,” said during its launch.
- According to official data, about 14 percent of births that occur in Argentina are to teenagers aged between 10 and 19 years old.
- Every year, an average of 2,500 babies are born to girls under the age of 15 in Argentina.
- Seventy percent of those pregnancies were not planned, occurred due to "imposition" (i.e. rape) or as a result of a lack of information and sexual education.
- In the provinces of Chaco, Formosa or Misiones, the percentage runs even higher: for every four recorded births, one corresponds to girls and adolescents.
* This article was originally published in Spanish in the Perfil newspaper.