Throughout the world and especially in India, teenage girls face some serious challenges. Many are considered ready for marriage and motherhood as soon as they come of age. In urban as well as in rural India, sexual autonomy is still frowned upon. Most young women do not have any knowledge about their reproductive rights. Young women are not taught about safe sex, contraceptive options, family planning methods and post-natal care. It is no surprise then, that every year over 100,000 women and girls lose their lives to pregnancy-related causes, most of which are preventable.
Discussing sexual health remains such a taboo in India, that most young women are left stranded to deal with the aftermath of any sexual experience – consensual or coerced. In desperation, they resort to unsafe and unreliable methods, putting their health and their lives at great risk. It is imperative today, to empower and invest in our girls. We must teach them about their options, rights, and resources extensively. Every young girl must know, and be free to exercise her reproductive rights.
On World Population Day 2016, UNFPA calls upon the world leaders to invest in teenage girls. The Indian government provides free and subsidized access to various options important for women’s sexual and reproductive health. Several programs are in place to cater to various issues like abortions, birth spacing, pre and post-natal care, etc.
Under the provision of the Family welfare program, the Government of India provides contraceptive options at subsidized rates. Condoms are a popular measure of birth control as well as protection from sexually transmitted diseases due to ease of access and usage. They may or may not contain spermicide. While they are mostly made of latex, non-latex options are available for those suffering from latex allergies.
Intra Uterine Devices (IUD) such as Copper T are provided for long term contraception up to 10 years. They are effective for maintaining the recommended minimum two-year gap between subsequent pregnancies. Some women may experience side effects such as cramps and abnormal bleeding. Therefore, it is always advisable to use an IUD after consulting a gynecologist.
Emergency contraceptive pills are recommended after unprotected sex to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. They are made available to victims of assault, rape or coerced sex. In the event of contraceptive failure, emergency contraceptives are recommended.
Tubectomy procedures are made available to eligible individuals under the National Family Welfare Program. It is an irreversible procedure, with a failure rate as low as 0.79%. Thorough counseling must be provided to patients and conscious, informed consent is required before the operation.
Safe Abortion Practices
In India, every two hours a woman dies due to unsafe abortion. Access to safe abortion facilities is one of the most pressing issues, and it is imperative that young women have these options laid out in front of them. A woman may undergo a medical abortion, performed by administering Mifepristone followed by Misoprostol. Manual vacuum aspiration is performed for later stages of pregnancy. The procedure is supplemented with anesthesia and mild painkillers. These procedures are performed by trained medical personnel at government hospitals and public health centers. Abortion is legal in India for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Everywhere in the world, it is important to give young women the resources to take their sexual and reproductive health under their own control. Empowering teenage girls, and giving them access to the adequate tools, is one of the most effective ways of combating the population crisis.
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