8th January, 2014
By Stellamaris Ashinze
A second-year medical student, Amarachi Sunday, recently got pregnant for a blind man, Festus.
Although Festus claimed that he loved Amarachi, her parents, who are both lecturers in the university, did not approve of their relationship.
They described it as an affront for their 19-year-old daughter to marry Festus, who is poor and physically challenged.
They persuaded Amarachi, their only daughter, to reject Festus, have the baby alone and return to school afterwards.
To their surprise, Amarachi jettisoned their advice, dropped out of school and got married to Festus.
Amarachi’s parents eventually rejected her before she gave birth to a baby girl and shortly after that, she became pregnant again.
Unfortunately, Festus’ attitude suddenly changed towards Amarachi, as he started maltreating her.
He became very touchy and started punching her; beating her up to such an extent that she had a miscarriage which led to the removal of her womb.
Strangely enough, Festus later sent the hapless girl out his home and brought in another wife.
Amarachi’s plight somewhat reflects the troubles of several other teenagers who got entangled with unplanned pregnancies.
Observers note that teenage pregnancy is on the increase in Nigeria, conceding, however, that it is more of a global menace, with African countries mostly affected.
They cite a report of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which indicates that more than 16 million girls, between the ages of 15 and 19, as well as over two million girls under 15 years give birth every year worldwide.
They also noted that the report reveals, among other things, that an estimated three million girls from age 15 to 19 undergo unsafe abortion every year.
They observed that the WHO statistics on Nigeria in 2010 indicate that the country accounts for 22.9 per cent of teenage pregnancies globally.
From all indications, the situation appears grim, compelling concerned observers to call for the introduction of appropriate measures to alleviate the growing menace of teenage pregnancy.
Miss Barisi Elizabeth, a student of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, blames the teenage pregnancy on parents, particularly mothers, who are too busy to watch over their children’s upbringing.
She also says that some parents are too harsh on their children, making it impossible for their children to confide in them on issues concerning sexuality. “Mothers are supposed to teach their children sex education so as to guard against their making costly mistakes and getting accidental pregnancies,” she says.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Norah Ugokwe, a retired civil servant, also blames the rising menace of teenage pregnancy on parents, particularly mothers.
She frowns at a situation where many women leave their children in the care of relations or nannies.
Ugokwe identifies peer pressure as another factor that contributes to teenage pregnancy, citing an instance of a student who got pregnant as a result of negative influence by her peers.
However, Mrs Grace Ketefe of Women Advocate and Research Documentation Centre, Lagos, attributes the phenomenon to the lack of basic knowledge of sexuality.
Ketefe, a lawyer, decries a situation in which teenagers get pregnant because of lack of sex education, stressing that if teenagers are well tutored at home or in school, teenage pregnancies will be reduced to the barest minimum.
Echoing similar views, Mrs Aluko Olokun, the President, African Female Lawyers Association, notes that many teenagers succumb to unwanted pregnancies due to their non-exposure to sex education. “Those who are victims are not well-informed about their sexuality, either at school or by their parents; so, they are lured into having unprotected sex,” she says.
Olokun pledges the commitment of her association, among others, to educating teenagers on sexuality, especially during the World Child’s Right Day celebrations.
She, however, insists that the inclusion of sex education in the school curricula will help teenagers to reject sex and scream for help whenever they are assaulted sexually.
All the same, Mrs. Shekarau Hauwa, the National President, International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA), blames the rising incidence of teenage pregnancy on the society and parents.
Shekarau attributes the menace to absence of sex education, peer pressure and sexual violence, as well as the craze for money by some parents.
She says that many parents often leave their boys and girls on their own to discover their sexuality, instead of guiding them.
“The truth is that most of our children know more than we can imagine, especially with this age of information technology where information is at our fingertips,” she says.
Shekarau laments that negative peer pressure has made several girls to experiment sex, adding: “If such girls refuse to conform, they are either rejected or ostracised by their peers.
“The fear of being ostracised makes them to give in since they are not informed on how to control their sexual urge,” she adds.
Shekarau, nonetheless, stresses that another source of concern is the rising menace of sexual violence, including rape and incest, in the society, calling on all the citizens and relevant stakeholders to tackle the menace.
Beyond that, the FIDA president condemns early marriage, stressing that the Child Right Law prescribes 18 years as the minimum age for marriage.
“Under the Penal and Criminal Codes, sexual intercourse with a minor, whether with the consent of the minor or not, is statutory rape.
“In other words, a minor has no capacity to consent to any sexual act; therefore, having sexual intercourse with a juvenile is rape.
“Unfortunately, how many convictions do we get for the constant rape of our young daughters?
“Sexual violence is generally on the increase; what we are reading in the media today is only a tip of the iceberg,” she says.
All in all, the experts insist that the incidence of teenage pregnancy in Nigeria will reduce considerably if concerted efforts are made to uphold criminal justice and punish offenders accordingly.
•Ashinze wrote this article for the News Agency of Nigeria