Adolescence and Reproductive Years
Children in Mali suffer violence, exploitation and abuse. Only four out of ten children are aware of their rights. There are many different examples of abuse; some girls are married as young as 12 years old and young boys are sometimes forced to beg on the streets in a distorted form of religious education. About 91 per cent of children reported that they were victims of physical abuse.
Poverty pushes some children into conflict with the law. It is difficult to estimate how many children are in prison because many do not even have birth certificates to determine their age. They are detained for petty thefts and they often have to wait many months before they are taken to court.
Relative to many other African countries, HIV/AIDS currently poses less of a threat to the youth in Mali. There is a relatively low prevalence rate of about 0.7 per cent among youth between 15 and 24 years. However, young women are almost twice as vulnerable to the infection as young men. Young female migrant workers are especially susceptible to infection. Knowledge about prevention is low and fertility rates extremely high. Stigma and discrimination deter young women from participating in prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV programmes.
In order to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS and improve their well being, women and girls need to be able to make decisions about their own health. However, in the 2006 Demographic and Health Survey, only 10 per cent of women said that they believe that they can say no to sexual relations with their husband and 72 per cent said that their husbands make the decisions about their health. Eight women die each day from pregnancy-related causes; most of the deaths could be prevented if the women were informed about available services and allowed to take more control over their own health.