Honduras is the second country in Latin America with the highest number of teen pregnancies, states the Honduran press, La Prensa. The newspaper has been documenting an epidemic in teen pregnancies on the rise. Lack of communication between parents and children is one of the reasons identified as a root cause.
In the picture above, “Maria,” (a pseudo name to protect the teen’s identity) holds her newborn in the maternity ward of the Hospital Leonardo Martinez in San Pedro Sula, north of Honduras.
Still weak from labor, she hushed her baby to sleep, while telling La Prensa her story. She was waiting for her partner to pick her up. Maria lives in Colonia Lomas del Carmen, a dangerous colony in Honduras with a reputation as a nest of clandestine cemeteries; a place where gang members bury their own.
At the time of the interview (July 3rd, 2018), it had only been 24 hours since Maria gave birth and the time had arrived for her to leave. La Prensa described her as a pale, but seemingly healthy:
“Everything seems to be okay except she is only 16 years old.”
Maria has been living with her partner of over a year, a young man of 19 years of age. Her mother knew and agreed to the arrangement. Neither of them has finished school. Maria told the reporter that her partner works in something related to cars and that’s how they survive. She dreams of completing her education, a goal she’s uncertain she’ll be able to meet.
Stories like Maria’s happen every week in Honduran public health centers.
Hospitals, like the Leonardo Martinez Hospital, have reported girls as young as 12 years old checking in to deliver their babies, reports Diario La Prensa.
According to a report from the Population Fund (ONU) of 2017, Honduras has an index of 101 births per 1000 women. These mothers are teens between the ages of 15 and 19 years old; the second highest in Latin-America.
Psychologist Magdalena Turcios told Diario La Prensa that the root of this epidemic is the home.
“Parents don’t bother talking with their children about relationships. Sexual abuse generally takes place in the homes because children, since a very young age, are left at home alone or under the care of extended family or neighbors who take advantage of them because they cannot defend themselves.”
The economic crisis in Honduras makes it necessary for both parents to work to support a home; this means that family time is greatly reduced to a few minutes together. Parents do not use this time to talk to their children about relationships or sexuality. “As long as parents continue looking the other way and avoid positive dialogue with their children, this situation will not change,” said Turcios.
The Problem is More Serious than Lack of Family Talk
More than 21 young girls give birth daily at the Hospital Materno Infantil by minors between 12 and 14 years. These young girls have partners who triple their age, states Julia Murillo for La Prensa.
25% of girls seeking maternity care are teens around 12 years old, reports La Prensa.
In Honduras, the number of pregnancies and births by teens is a grave problem on the rise, warn health specialists in the country. The Hospital Materno Infantil of San Pedro Sula treats 21 minors in the labor and delivery rooms daily.
In most cases, teens between 15 and 19 confirmed that their pregnancies resulted from consensual relations.
In other cases, they have resulted from rape.
“70% of the time, they are accompanied by a close relative, like a mother, and only in about 30% of the cases do their romantic partners show up,” states Jose Guifarro, internal medicine specialist of the delivery room of the hospital Materno Infantil.
Most of the young girls come from dangerous parts of Honduras and have a low educational level.
“Most teens have no sexual education. In most cases, their parents have never talked to them about sex. Neither have their schools nor churches. One message they are getting is the bombardment of sexual content through music and social media.” Says Jose Palomo, a gynecologist from the Hospital Mario Catarino Rivas.
Teen Bodies Are Not Ready For Pregnancy
“Teens bodies are not ready for a pregnancy, which makes girls more prone to c-sections and physical tears of levels 3 and 4. Minors can also suffer from preeclampsia during their pregnancy, more vaginal infections, and babies that are born with low weight,” explained Rivas.
Dr. Elmer Mayes, Ex-President of the Colegio Medico de Honduras said that teen pregnancies increase the risk of negative consequences for the life of the baby by 50%. Teens younger than 17, have a 4-times higher risk for pregnancy complications and their babies have a 50% likelihood of suffering from respiratory problems.
An Epidemic in Teen Pregnancies Affects a Young Girl’s Life and the Economic Future of Honduras
Mayes explains: “Each time a young girl gets pregnant, it represents a failure for Honduras’ social, educational and economic welfare. The rising number of teen pregnancies is an indicator of the social deterioration of the country. If we really want to advance as a society, this serious problems must change.”
Who are the Teens’ Sexual Partners?
Dr. Yelba Cuadra, Chief of Statistics in the Hospital Leonardo Martinez reports: “Some of the minors have sexual relations with boyfriends they meet in school. Others have relations with adult males; we are talking men who are 30 or 40 years old. We have also seen pregnancies resulting from rapes.”
“Rosita” a 14-year-old who is pregnant told La Prensa that her partner did not join her in the hospital because he didn’t want to get in trouble with the authorities.” She told La Prensa that she wants to have another child.
Last year, the Fondo de Poblacion of the ONU, warned that teen pregnancy is a serious problem in Honduras where 1 in 4 births is from a minor younger than 19, stated Cecilia Maurenete of ONU.
“Teen Pregnancy is “Torture,” according to CLADEM. When 14-year-olds don’t have options, you have “Forced Pregnancies.” Latin American & Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM0.
The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM) considers it alarming that each year two million girls between 10 and 14 give birth of which 60,000 are registered in Honduras. The organization calls this a form of “torture.” CLADEM defines “forced pregnancies” when a minor under 14 years old is forced to keep the pregnancy and give birth, against their will due to restrictive legislation, family pressures or pressures from society or the state.
CLADEM states that in most cases girls pregnant at that young age were raped by members of their own families. In countries like El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Republica Dominicana, there are zero grounds under which a pregnancy can be terminated.
“To force a pregnancy on a minor under 14 is considered a form of torture, a cruel treatment that is both inhumane and degrading,” stated Efe Leila Diaz, representative of CLADEM, in Honduras.
Diaz laments that many of the minors are confined to public and private institutions where they lose touch with family and friends and are left young, pregnant, and isolated.
Diaz insists that Honduras should decriminalize abortion when the mother’s life is in danger and in cases of rape and sexual abuse with a particular protection extended to minor girls between 10 and 14 years old. She also advocates that sex education ought to be integrated into the school curriculum and that Honduran women should have access to the day after pill with the intention to help reduce early pregnancies.
To be a young, pregnant teen in Honduras presents insurmountable challenges. In a country where there is no dialogue of sexuality, barriers to birth control are the law, an inflexible government disregards women’s rights, and a society is desensitized to 40-year-old men having 12-year-old “partners,” it is understandable that so many women from Honduras seek gender violence refuge for themselves and their daughters in the United States. The status of women’s rights and protections in societies tell larger stories of a country’s conscience and the barriers it creates through archaic, abusive laws to what could improve the economy and self-reliance of its future course and its role in the world. When thinking about why countries are stuck in cycles of international debt and corruption, a good place to start reforms is by looking at how a country treats its girls.