U.N. report: Too many girls too young to give birth

A 16-year-old girl pleads with her parents not to barter her into a marriage.

Komol, from India, dreamed of continuing her education, going to college and providing a better life for her parents. But what she wanted counted little.

She became pregnant with her first child at age 16, in a marriage she did not want.

“Since then, I have hardly ever been allowed to step out of the house,” Komol was reported as saying, in a United Nations Population Fund report released Wednesday. “Sometimes, when the others are not at home, I read my old school books, and hold my baby and cry.”

“She is such an adorable little girl, but I am blamed for not having a son.”

One in every five girls (about 19%) gives birth before she turns 18 in developing countries, according to the report. Of the 7.3 million girls who give birth every year, 2 million of them are under the age of 14.

The report states that pregnancies — especially for these girls — “are not the result of a deliberate choice” but rather “the result of an absence of choices and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control,” affecting their health, education and future job opportunities.

“For these very young adolescents who do not have a say in whether or when they will become pregnant, their futures are destroyed, and their basic human rights are violated,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund in an e-mail.

Countries with the highest percentage of reported births before age 18 were mostly in West Africa, in countries such as Niger (51%), Chad (48%), Mali (46%) and Guinea (44%).

Globally, adolescent births are declining. But they are increasing in three regions — South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Madison Park, CNN