UNFPA Timor-Leste


Report on Teenage Pregnancy and Early Marriage

Report on Teenage Pregnancy and Early Marriage

Author: Dr. Deborah Cummins
No. of pages: 47
Available languages: English
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With 19% of girls married before 18 and 24% already with a child by the time they turn 20, the Secretariat of State for Youth and Sports, UNFPA and Plan International decided to investigate the decision-making pathways and experiences that lead to teenage pregnancy and early marriage in Timor-Leste.

The objective of the research was to investigate the root causes of pregnancies in adolescence and early marriages, as well as to collect information on possible ways to prevent them.

The research reveals that access to sexual education is very limited for young people in Timor-Leste, and contraception largely out of unmarried young people's reach, which leads to young women not knowing how -or not being able- to prevent pregnancy. But most importantly, with or without sexual education or contraception, the report shows that young women in fact have very little agency in the decision to engage in sexual relationships. It was found that in all 24 cases, the boys initiated the sexual relationship, and the girls always felt they had to comply. This unequal power relationship between girls and boys was identified as the main cause for teenage pregnancies in those three municipalities of Timor-Leste.

"To prevent teen pregnancies, we must stop blaming girls and start addressing the circumstances that make marriage and motherhood the only options for them", added Mr. John M. Pile, UNFPA Representative.

The research clearly shows that teenage pregnancies and early marriage have consequences for many aspects of young people's lives-their health, education employment opportunities and overall general well-being. Given its complexity, many sectors and actors have a role to play in preventing it: the health and education sectors, parents and communities at large, gender advocates and policy makers, and young people themselves.