Child and teen pregnancy in El Salvador

Last week El Salvador's Ministry of Health released a report on pregnancy in girls and teens in El Salvador.   It is a report that shows some progress on this serious issue, but there is still much to be accomplished.  The report titled More than 19,000 reasons for the protection of girls and adolescents is available here.

The report focuses on pregnancies during 2017 across El Salvador and compares them to a similar analysis performed in 2015.   The basic data is shown in this table:

As circled in the table, 781 girls 14 and under became pregnant in 2017, including 46 between the ages of 10 and 12.    This number is down from 1,437 in 2015, but is still much too high according to the Ministry of Health and any other compassionate observer.

As the report notes, any pregnancy of a girl that young is rape.   But the Salvadoran criminal justice system is inadequate when it comes to crimes of sexual violence.   In 2017, for the 781 pregnancies in girls 14 and under, there were only 63 criminal complaints initiated.   And on average, only 10% of complaints of sexual violence result in convictions.

This is a public health crisis which requires a criminal justice response according to the Ministry of Health.   Sex with anyone that young is always a crime and must be prosecuted as such.  Most of the perpetrators are family members or acquaintances, and a culture which permits incest and child abuse must be counteracted.

Pregnancy in children and adolescents has many other consequences according to the report.   There are serious physical and emotional health risks to the life of the child and the child's baby the younger the mother is.  Young mothers almost invariably drop out of school, and are more likely to live in poverty.

How is El Salvador doing since the 2017 data in this report? A downward trend continues.   According to the Ministry, there were 664 pregnancies in girls 14 and under in 2018 and in the first four months of 2019 there were 154 pregnancies reported.   

Thus this is a good news / bad news type of a story.   The good news is there has been a steady reduction from 2015 to 2019.   At the current pace, there would be only 460 pregnancies to children under age 15 this year.     But that is still 460 too many.