PRESS STATEMENT: Abandonement of babies and teenage pregnancies
KUALA LUMPUR, 13 August 2008 - UNICEF Malaysia is concerned by the regularity of media reports regarding the abandonment of babies, in many cases as a result of unwanted teenage pregnancies. These reports are crucial in highlighting this serious social issue, and raise many more questions about how we should address the underlying causes.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that children have rights and responsibilities appropriate to their age and stage of development. The Convention also advocates that everyone concerned with children should work towards what is best for each child.
Taking a stand from the perspective of the Convention, we must be prepared to protect the children in this dynamic, be it the teenager or the abandoned baby.
FIRSTLY, we must address the issue of why many teenagers are becoming pregnant. Adolescence is fraught with peer pressure, adult expectations and influences from the media. If young people are not taught to manage these pressures and influences, they are greatly exposed to risky behaviour that could lead to unwanted pregnancies and other dangers like HIV infection. Our utmost priority is to equip teenagers, especially young girls, with the power to say ‘No’ to behaviours that threaten the sanctity of adolescence. At the same time, we should ensure that boys are included in gender-focussed education to positively shape their notions of masculinity and respect for women and girls.
SECONDLY, we must ensure that there are services available to support girls and boys struggling to cope with unexpected pregnancies. Young girls, in particular, need access to non-judgmental counselling on what their options are, and how to engage with family members in disclosing their condition. They should not be subject to further discrimination, so that they can continue their education and achieve their dreams.
THIRDLY, we must ensure that all young people know about these options and services, and how to access them. As parents and teachers, it is our responsibility to provide young people with comprehensive life skills-based education that will empower them with the knowledge and skills to make the right choices. Sexual and reproductive health education centred around life skills will help adolescents adopt healthy behaviours and manage challenging situations.
Adults are tasked with the responsibility of providing support, education and services that empower young people to make correct and responsible decisions.
Only when young people have a strengthened sense of personal security, can we protect them from having to resort to abandoning their babies. Only when young people are given full support, can we protect innocent infants from being abandoned and denied the best start in life.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
• Indra Nadchatram
• Shiao Eek, Tee
Resources - Preventing Teenage Pregnancies