Teen sex and abortion on the rise across India

Posted: 29 October 2002

Teenage sex in India is on the rise and so are resultant pregnancies and abortions. Even more alarming is the increase in teenage deaths due to unsafe abortions.

Up to 60 million Indian women seek abortion every year. Some 100,000 died last year due to hazardous practices used in embryo removal. Four out of every five who died were 15-19 years old. An overwhelming majority of them were unmarried.

"Increased teenage pre-marital sex has pushed up the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions," gynaecologist Kamini A. Rao said in a press conference in New Delhi. "The reason is that unwed pregnant girls are scared to seek parents'' help and are forced to go to quacks who perform unsafe abortions."

The desperate need for sex education and information in schoolchildren is reflected in the results of a survey of 5,000 schoolgirls in Bangalore. This showed that only seven per cent knew about the menstrual cycle until they experienced it. Just one per cent knew of ovulation.

According to Rao, teenagers need coaching in use of contraceptives, which could prevent unwanted pregnancies and the threat to their lives. "Most teenagers do not use contraceptives, especially in their first sexual experience. They do not plan or think of the consequences."

Some 60 per cent of Indian women never use contraceptives. There was a need to popularise the "emergency" contraceptive tablets that can prevent pregnancies if consumed within 72 hours of the sexual act, she added.

"The use of emergency contraceptives has been a secret. But it is simple in its use and people should know about it. Its global success rate is 96 per cent. In India, however, even 30 per cent medical doctors do not know much about it."

  • Teenage pre-marital sex and similar issues will be debated at the annual conference of the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecological Society of India, which includes 158 medical societies nationwide, at Bangalore in January 2003. The conference will focus on use of contraceptives and maternity health.

    Sources: Hindustan Times online and IPPF, 25 October 2002.