FACTS AND FIGURES

This basic fact sheet presents facts and figures on sexual and reproductive health issues pertaining to youth aged 10-24 years in the Republic of Mauritius.

The World Health Organisation defines adolescence as a period of time between the ages 10-19 years. In this fact sheet, we will refer to youth in the age group of 10-24 years.

In the world, there are 1.5 billion of young people aged between 10-24 years. 85% of them live in developing countries. In year 2025, there will be 2 billion youth in this age bracket.

In all societies, adolescents undergo physical and emotional changes they may not understand. They are very susceptible to peer pressure and have a great need for approval. They may also feelinvincible and fail to understand the possible consequence of actions that put them at great risks. For these reasons, adolescents may be exposed to many reproductive health problems : sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, etc. In fact, one out of twenty teenagers in the world contracts an STD every year. Maternal mortality for women between 15 to 19 worldwide is twice as high as those above their 20's due to complications related to pregnancy, childbirth and unsafe abortion.

THE REPUBLIC OF MAURITIUS

The Digest of Demographic Statistics of 1996 states that in the Republic of Mauritius, 27% of the population is aged between 10-24 years of whom 150,728 are males and 146,054 females. Slightly more than 38% of the Rodriguan population is aged between 10-24 years with 6,700 males and 6,670 females.

The Demographic Year Book from the Ministry of Health & Quality of Life (1996) indicates that the adolescent fertility rate in Mauritius is 36.2 per 1000.

With the advent of industrialisation and social change taking place in Mauritius, it is observed that many traditional values and structures are being eroded. Loss of parental control, in many cases, is a growing concern. Increasing rates of sexuality, pregnancy, etc have become real issues among adolescents.

The Statistical Division of the Ministry of Health registered 19 cases of pregnancy among women aged below 15 years in 1997 in Mauritius. 121 cases of teenage pregnancy have been recorded in Rodrigues island during the same year.

In 1996, out of 19,868 live births in the islands of Mauritius, 8,093 were from youths aged 15-24 years and in Rodrigues Island, out of 695 live births, 296 were from youths of the same age.

Among 2,008 official cases of post abortion, complications cases registered in l997, 798 occurred among youth below the age of 24 years old.

The Statistical Profile on Women in the Republic of Mauritius states that 6,393 women found in the age (15-24) got married in l996.

MFPA STUDY

According to a study done by MFPA in 1993, about 80% of young unmarried women in the age group of 15-24 working in the EPZ sector are sexually active. Women generally feel powerless to negotiate safe sex and being less exposed to sex education, they are highly at risks of unwanted pregnancies, STDs/AIDS, etc.

AGE AT PUBERTY AND MARRIAGE

Puberty occurs earlier and average age at marriage is rising. So, young people to-day face a longer period of time during which they may become sexually active and if not prepared adequately, they are exposed to great risks. In general, the average age at menarche has fallen to 12 years and the average marriage age for girls has increased to 24 years and 27 years for boys.

According to Mauritian Law, sexual intercourse among females before the age of 16 is forbidden. All adults having sexual intercourse with or without consent with a female under 16 years therefore commit an offence and can be sentenced to jail for a period not exceeding 10 years.

ADOLESCENTS AT RISK

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 34 states that the child has the right to protection from sexual exploitation and abuse including prostitution and involvement in pornography.

The Statistical Profile on Children in the Republic of Mauritius (1997), nevertheless, states that 106 cases of sexual abuse, 2 cases of incest, 27 cases of sexual harassment and 28 cases of child prostitution were registered among youth below 18 years in l997.

YOUTH & INFORMATION

According to the study, the "Youth Profile" in the Republic of Mauritius in l997

40% of the youth receive information on sexuality from their friends

1% among the boys receive sex education from parents

15% of female youth receive information on sexual matters from their parents.

The survey done on Lifestyle among the Youth in Mauritius (1990), indicates that slightly below 2% of the female youth aged 15-21 years even used condoms and less than 1% of female in the same age group used contraceptive pills.

SEXUAL EDUCATION

Unfortunately in general, it is believed that sex education can lead to earlier or increased sexual activity among young people. On this issue, WHO conducted 35 studies among youth in both developed and developing countries like USA, Lesotho, Africa, Cameroon, Shri Lanka, etc and some of the findings were:

Youth needed more information on all aspects of sexual and reproductive health.

Sex education should incorporate moral and religious teachings in relation to sexual relationships.

Youth should be given a more active role as peer educators in sex education programmes.

In response to this concern, MFPA is currently conducting Family Life Education (FLE) sessions among primary and secondary school students to equip them with the right INFORMATION in order to face the challenges of life. Soon, a Youth Development Centre will be opened to offer counselling , education and services for young people. Our Documentation Centre will provide them with the opportunity to get access to appropriate literature and visual materials on youth sexual and reproductive health.

YOUTH ADVISORY PANEL - MFPA

A national Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) which is already advising on programmes relating to youth health and development, will monitor the activities of the Youth Centre. On a parallel basis, youth advocacy teams have been set up in the community together with a Youth Counselling Desk at the University of Mauritius. Young peer educators have been trained at worksites to offer support and advice to their friends.

The Youth Advisory Panel of MFPA hopes that a national sexual education programme be established at primary and secondary school levels so as to provide access to all students to the RIGHT INFORMATION IN SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH.

REFERENCES