Since 1989 the international community observes World Population Day on 11 July. This year, World Population Day aims at raising awareness about the issue of adolescent pregnancy.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the topic “sensitive” and expressed belief that it demands global attention.

According to UN data, about 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year, while another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions.

The problem seems to be exacerbated in developing countries where 90% of the pregnant adolescents are married. UN data shows that for far too many of these girls, pregnancy has little to do with informed choice. On the contrary, often it is a consequence of discrimination, rights violations (including child marriage), inadequate education or sexual coercion.

Child marriage itself was the focus also of the International Day of the Girl Childobserved for the first time on 11 October last year. According to latest estimates, on a global scale, more than about 70 million (around one in three) young women aged 20-24 years were married before they reached the age of 18. One third of them (around 23 million) entered into marriage before they turned 15.

In a statement released on the occasion of World Population Day 2013, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, says that adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue, but also a development one. The agency further explains that it is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and forced marriage, power imbalances between adolescent girls and their male partners, lack of education, and the failure of systems and institutions to protect their rights.

UNFPA appealed that governments around the world enact and enforce national laws that raise the age of marriage to 18, while pointing out that adolescents and youth must be provided with age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education.

(New Europe)