By Paula Bayarte
Lima, Apr 19 (EFE).- More than half of the births registered in Peru during the past five years were not desired at conception, according to the United Nations, a figure that involves many failings including the infringement of the right for women to plan their families, the infrequent use of birth control in the country and sexual violence.
“In the past five years, when women were asked about whether the babies they had delivered were desired, approximately 52.1 percent of those surveyed said that the pregnancies were not wanted at the time of conception. This means that if the right to family planning would have been exercised, one in every two births would not have occurred,” the representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Peru, Hugo Gonzalez, told EFE.
The latest study produced by the institution, titled “Seeing the Unseen: State of the World Population Report 2022,” confirms that almost half of the pregnancies in the world are unintentional, meaning that there exists a worldwide “failure” in defending fundamental human rights with 121 million unwanted pregnancies occurring each year or 331,000 each day.
That this percentage would be even greater in Peru is not coincidental. One of the findings of the report is that 55 percent of Peruvian women who are in sexual relationships or married and of childbearing age use some kind of birth control, a lower figure than in other countries in the region such as Colombia, Chile and Uruguay, where the percentage is about 70 percent.
The use of modern contraceptive methods is lower among women in high Andean rural zones (48.7 percent), among those in the lowest-income quintile (47.6 percent) and among indigenous women (46.3 percent), the report found.
“There is a large number of women (who) have unsatisfied needs regarding contraceptive use,” said Gonzalez in asserting the obligation of the Peruvian state to provide health services and investments both in logistics and in personnel trained and sensitive to the country’s diversity to guarantee that the entire population has access to contraceptives.
He added that it is necessary for people to have information that serves to “demystify” the use of modern contraceptives so that each individual can make appropriate decisions regarding lifestyle and family planning.
The report warns that, during their first experience of sexual intercourse, just half of young women 12-24 years old use some kind of contraceptive and that, specifically, teenagers are the ones who use contraceptives least often.
About two-thirds of teenagers said that at the time of conception their pregnancies were unwanted, according to the study.
Often, these pregnancies are linked to sexual abuse, forced conception or underage matrimony, all of which imply the loss of opportunities for the minor.
“Teen (15-19 years) pregnancies are five times greater in the poorest quintile (and) this is not because these teens want to have more children. In the first place, they did not have access to comprehensive sex education appropriate to their age that would have allowed them to make a decision about starting a sexual relationship,” Gonzalez said.
During 2021, at least 1,436 girls younger than 15 became mothers in Peru, an increase from 1,177 the year before. Another of the elements explaining the high number of unwanted births and the fact that child pregnancies continue rising is the lack of sex education in families and schools.
Gonzalez said that information on sexuality that empowers teens to make conscientious decisions should be accessible, but this is difficult in a conservative country like Peru, where legal reform projects are under way to eliminate the scanty availability of such materials.
“This tool has been viewed scientifically such that rather than promoting promiscuous behavior, as some people opposed to the concept argue, it’s just the reverse. Rather, they’re postponing the decision to start … (having) sexual relations because people are informed and they know that having a pleasant sexual life means being responsible and having information,” Gonzalez said.
The UN report also includes a figure that shows the risk to women who become pregnant without planning it, with 60 percent of these pregnancies worldwide ending in abortion and 45 percent of these being undertaken in an unsafe manner, causing 13 percent of maternal deaths.
For girls, teens and women to become mothers without planning to do so causes them to leave or never join the professional portion of society, whether that’s by attending school, pursuing their studies or developing working careers, and this harms their economic future and that of their children since it means that they must enter the informal work force.
But it also harms the state, which loses the tax income and quality production capacity that these workers might provide, according to the UNFPA.
“Society as a whole should protect the aspirations of girls and teenagers and the state should provide facilities so that they can achieve their life goals,” Gonzalez said.