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Teen Pregnancy in Costa Rica

Interviewd a young leader, Angela, who devotes to educating people about sex education and reproductive health in Costa Rica

Photo of Yu-Hsuan Lin
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Background of Interviewee

Angela Delgado Corrales has a degree in political science. She is an active volunteer in a feminist group which devoted to educating people about sexual and reproductive health and the rights women have in the Costa Rican health system. She mainly focuses on consultant methods and preventing pregnancy. Moreover, since abortion is illegal in Costa Rica, she works to legalize abortion.


Teen pregnancy

Our problem in Costa Rica is lack of information about sexual education. In Costa Rica, medication and public health is free and was provided by their state. We have a big issue about adolescent pregnancy and the rate of adolescent pregnancy is higher than poor countries like Pakistan and Zimbabwe. In Costa Rica, 16 percent of all births are among girls under 18, and in rural and coastal areas the rate rises to as much as 27 percent. In most of the teen pregnancy cases, especially girls who are 10-14 years old, their newborn’s father are older than 30 years old. The main problem is that they don’t have the right to decide what method of contraception they want to choose. Those girls only have two options: pills or injectables. Furthermore, since Costa Rica is a Catholic country and Catholic church opposes abortion, the girls who get pregnant cannot control their body and have to give birth.


Lack of sex education and information about reproductive health

The Catholic church opposes sex education in primary and high school. Their family is also Catholic or Christian, then they can’t talk about family planning methods in their house either. Hence, young people know nothing about sex education and even do not have any information about the reproductive health system. For example, emergency contraception is legal in Costa Rica, but their state doesn’t provide it. So women don’t have access to these methods either. Furthermore, since Catholic church opposes abortion, those contraceptive methods are regarded as a form of abortion and people are afraid of using them.


Rape happened in Costa Rica

 Around 500 girls younger than 15 are forced to have children each year, and these children come from men older than 30. These rapes happen because there is no consent, no education, and no information for them to have consensual sexual relations, with information. For us, this is a big problem. Most men in Costa Rica know what condoms are and also understand how to use them, but they refuse to use it. 


 How to improve the health system and sex-ed in Costa Rica

First, we need a sexual education program not only for women and teenagers but also for men and doctors. Second, we need to teach people not only sexual education but also gender equality. Third, we need to legalize abortion since now abortions are allowed in Costa Rica only to preserve the life or physical health of the woman. Abortions are illegal in almost all cases, including when the pregnancy is a result of rape. Women will be sent to jail because of abortion. 

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Photo of Will Hsu

It is hard to believe to see the facts that those people are not having sexual and reproductive health education but also allow so many tragic unwanted sex happening. I agree that a structured and well-designed sexual education program should be the first priority and I think to make it more efficiency, the government should also do something about it too.
Throughout many people's research, it is the lack of proper sex education that lead to more sexual problems like sex violence, teenage pregnancy, and HIV..etc. Even though it is easy for us to think of the solutions, the social climate, the traditional culture and religion belief are some obstacles for pushing this kind of evolutional ideas. So I think how to make people have more access to the right and clear information might be a good start.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Yu-Hsuan Lin for sharing this interview, which provides a lot of rich insights. A few that came up to my mind:
1. general lack of education and body awareness for these young girls.
It reminded me a few posts. Here are 2:
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/youth-srh/research/the-cliteracy-project
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/youth-srh/research/girl-or-woman

2. Sexual violence. See in particular Cherisha's post highlighting a similar issue in Haiti:
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/youth-srh/research/sexual-violence-is-a-major-issue-in-haiti

3. power of religion and culture
This has been highlighted by multiple posts in various countries. You might find Beto post about a program run by a priest interesting: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/youth-srh/research/don-t-have-half-sex-do-it-thoroughly

4. Need to take a holistic / system view and include all stakeholders in the education initiative: girls / women, boys / men and doctors. I wonder why your interviewee thought doctors should be involved.

5. power imbalance: men know about condoms but they don't want to use them and the young girls (back to point 1) don't necessarily know about them.
This highlights a similar issue: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/youth-srh/research/the-sexual-double-standards-in-haiti

5. the issue of abortion and need to have also political solutions

I saw this program which aims to share contraception while respecting privacy: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/youth-srh/research/confidential-access-to-contraception-overcoming-stigmatisation-and-fear-of-judgement
What do you think of this initiative?

Thanks again for sharing. Looking forward to seeing how this informs the ideation phase.