A flurry of unexplained deaths of adolescent girls in the town of Ciudad del Este may be due to alcohol-related infections, according to a report published Wednesday in the prestigious Human Rights Watch.
The report, which accuses the town’s health officials of fostering a culture of drinking and drug-taking among girls, says one study suggests that “as many as one in five girls ages 14 to 18” give birth in Ciudad del Este in a one-year period.
The hospital director in the town, Cesar Noronha, responded by telling the paper: “It’s a mistake to speak of one in five. … At the hospital we can only say that there was a baby born, but I don’t want to talk about numbers.”
Some 1,000 young girls aged 14 or younger gave birth in Paraguay between 2019 and 2020, according to the report, “Reality of Silence: Aspiring Moms and Their Institutional Engagement in Sexual Reproduction.”
Nearly half the 1,000 young girls given birth had planned to give birth, but 92 percent said their parents had not yet discussed the issue, according to the report, which blames the lack of family planning information and abortions for the pregnancies.
Most of the girls were in school by the time they got pregnant. In Paraguay, primary and secondary education are free, and the minimum salary is considered a “social classification” that can be converted into a pension for people on the lower end of the social class scale.
A record 13,523 pregnancies were recorded in Paraguay in 2016, according to the report. “Forcible pregnancies” — where a man attempts to force himself on a woman while she is in a condition where she can give consent — account for 54 percent of all unplanned pregnancies, and if the child is born, 69 percent of them will be brought up in poverty.
“The authorities of Paraguay allow adolescents who become pregnant to enter into an agreement with the state, where they will accept abortion — provided they notify authorities, seek a referral from the government, and are examined by a doctor,” the report says.
In Paraguay, birth control pills, patches and intrauterine devices are available without prescription and can be accessed by anyone who presents a social security card. It is expected that 21 percent of pregnancies in Paraguay will happen to girls under the age of 17.
One girl, known as Ana, had planned to get an abortion but her parents refused to give permission. Ana’s 4-month pregnancy culminated in her giving birth to the 12th child born to her family in a 19-year-old’s body, according to the report.
“I am very happy. It has been a long time,” Ana said in the report. “My first one was delivered, the second one was born here in these quarters. One here in the room and one there.”
Of every 10 girls who miscarry, the report says, four are girls who are pregnant for the first time.
This article was written by Maria Dueñas from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]