Dominican Republic: Thirteen girls under 15 give birth every day

By Mercedes Alonso


 Santo Domingo, October (SEMlac). – The Dominican Republic ranks on top of
 the list of Latin American countries exhibiting high pregnancy rates and
 consensual unions that involve girls under 15 years of age, a report of the
 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicated.

 It added that 13 girls under 15 give birth every day after having been raped
 or sexually abused.

 UNICEF representative Rosa Elcarte has asked local citizens to report sexual
 exploitation cases to the police.

 She told SEMlac that 60 per cent of poor girls under 18 are either married
 or living in consensual unions. “They have one or more children,” she
 added.

 “It is alarming to see how tolerant the Dominican society is. There are
 girls and boys under sexual exploitation at tourist resorts and other areas
 of the country,” she regretted.

 No excuse

 Last September, UNICEF launched the campaign “No excuse,” in coordination
 with the Office of the Attorney-General.

 “The campaign seeks to raise awareness about these issues,” Elcarte
 emphasized.

 “There are no reliable statistical data on a recurrent phenomenon that is
 deeply rooted in male-chauvinistic traditions,” she stressed.

 Interviews with 146 minors under 18 at tourist resorts showed that many
 children are getting involved in sexual relations with adults in exchange
 for money.

 Over 30 per cent of private school children said they have at some point
 been approached by adults interested in having sex with them.

 DR, a destination for sex?

 “Some people believe that girls can be used to bring money home. This is a
 gross violation of their human rights,” Elcarte told Hoy newspaper.

 “Girls under 18 are not physically and psychologically prepared to make
 sound decisions about sex. These acts are punished under international
 laws,” she recalled.

 No records

 “Over 70 per cent of children to teenage mothers are not registered at birth
 because they have no ID documents available,” she stressed.
 She thinks that progress toward teenage pregnancy prevention has been made,
 but highlights the importance of education.

 “In this context, we failed to meet the Millennium Development Goals in the
 past and we are not likely to meet the Sustainable Development Goals at
 present,” she regretted.

 Out of 13 babies being born every day, 10 die of preventable causes. UNICEF
 is working together with the Ministry of health under the Baby-Friendly
 Hospital Initiative to improve care quality and promote vaginal delivery,
 breastfeeding, and other good practices.

 “We hope to reduce this rate, which has for 20 years been one of the highest
 in Latin America, within the next five years,” she concluded.

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