Around fifty percent of Colombia’s pregnancies are unwanted, Caracol Radio reported earlier this week. The radio station told the audience that there are about three times as many unwanted pregnancies as in the United States (14 percent), which also isn’t a low percentage I think. But if half of all the pregnancies are undesired, that really is alarming and extremely sad.
Not long ago there was also news about unwanted pregnancies in Colombia’s capital Bogotá: 20,000 a year, among whom there are many young girls, according to radio station Bogotá AM/PM. That also sounds like quite a lot, but 50 percent is simply shocking.
According to the national radio station Caracol, sex on television influences the behavior of youngsters, but that is not a Colombian phenomenon, it is worldwide. So remains the question: why is the statistic so high in Colombia?
I wondered about that when I saw a You Tube film about a bigamist shoemaker in Colombia, about whom I wrote a column last week. The guy lives with two women: with the oldest he has nine children and with the youngest 6. Were all these pregnancies wanted? One cannot imagine.
There are quite a lot of initiatives, by local authorities, the Health Ministry, the organization for sexual and reproductive health, Profamilia, which by the way is a serious and very accessible organization. It visits poor communities and give lots of information, it has special programs in which young people can go and inform themselves about methods of contraception and also can apply them.
Nevertheless the effect doesn’t seem to be big enough. What is the reason? It is very important to investigate this. It is of little use to suppose and not really know.
It is the influence of the Catholic Church, as is often said. Because it is against contraception.
Is it machismo? Guys don’t want women to use contraceptive methods, because it makes them too free, as is also often said.
Do girls and women feel they cannot decide about their own body? If that is so, are they even conscious of this problem?
Is it perhaps a combination of all these things or is it something completely different?
Whatever it is, it is very important that this problem be attacked. Not all the undesired pregnancies end badly, and often the woman or the couple can come to terms with it. But too often in Colombia the pregnant woman is a young girl, who is still at school, who sees her future seriously troubled, who therefore gives birth to a baby who also will have to deal with many obstacles in life.
That cannot happen in a country with a lot of poverty, with a lot of unemployment and with still a war going on, in which young people – children! – without a future are easily recruited to be canon’s meat.
Author Wies Ubags is a Dutch freelance journalist in Bogotá, works for media in her country and has her own weblog