Although it may sound strange, adolescents are children – as established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which defines a child as “every human being below the age of 18 years”.
Adolescence is the period during which a person is preparing to become a productive adult, with a family and citizen duties. Adolescents are not a homogeneous group, but they are united by a common age range (between 12 and 18) and a rebellious attitude that seeks to find social value for themselves through friends, peers, affection, pleasure, play, music, theater, sports and culture in its broadest sense.
Peruvian adolescents have a series of special characteristics. The following are some principal facts about their current situation.
How many are they
There are somewhat more than 3,600,000 Peruvians between the ages of 12 and 18, representing almost 13% of the population. Of these, 50.63% are men and 49.3% are women.
Where do they live
In 2003, 73.5% of all Peruvian adolescents lived in urban areas and 26.5% in rural areas.
How many are poor
It is estimated that in the rural area, 74% of all young people are poor, while in the city the percentage is 39.8%. Poverty, exclusion and inequity are the order of the day for these kids.
How many are in school
In 2003, only 2 million 300 thousand were enrolled in secondary school – that is, half of those that entered primary. Access to secondary education in the rural areas is even more deficient, since only 50% of them manage to have access (versus almost 80% in urban zones). Also, 42% of poor youths do not go to secondary school, a disturbing figure when compared with the 13% that characterizes other socio-economic groups.
How many work
About 33% of adolescents between 12 and 18 perform economic activities, and half of them combine work with study. Estimates are that in the rural area, 40% of Peru’s children and adolescents work at agricultural activities, with serious effects on their schooling (49% of those that work and attend school are one or more years behind their age cohort). Finally, 62% of the adolescent girls working in domestic service (whose number is difficult to estimate) do not attend school and have a 57-hour work week.
How many are abused or exploited
Recent national level surveys show that 49% of the kids receive beatings from their parents, this practice being considered a natural way of discipline and education, even by the young people themselves. It is estimated that in 8 of every 10 cases of sexual abuse the offender is a member of the family environment, and that 6 of every 10 pregnancies in girls 11 to 14 are the result of incest or rape.
How many are parents
Adolescent maternity is four times higher among uneducated adolescents (37%) than in those with secondary schooling. What is alarming is that for the department of Loreto, indicators show that 26% of adolescent women already are mothers. In the sierra the percentage is 15%, and on the coast, 8.5%. It is evident that there are social inequities: being poor and having been born in the rain forest area determines a way of life that, in most cases, perpetuates differences and accentuates social conflicts.
Of the 17,054 cases of the disease reported 826 correspond to children and adolescents. Of that number, 430 are adolescents between 15 and 19 (299 males and 131 females). In the national ranking, Loreto occupies fourth place, Piura fifth, La Libertad sixth and Lambayeque ninth. In Peru 75% of new cases of AIDS are among young people.
How many are deprived of their liberty
According to figures from the Judiciary Power, through April 2004 there were 1,309 adolescent lawbreakers detained in Youth Centers, of whom only 885 had been sentenced, while the remaining 424 were still undergoing legal process.