Adolescents Sexual Health & Rights

Adolescence is a period of transition, accompanied by both psychological and physical changes. It is the beginning of an age when adolescents starts to explore and are exposed to their sexuality. In India, adolescents represents a fifth of its’ population, of which 5% male and 30% female are married or are engaged in sex. With a majority of pregnancy among adolescents owing to child marriage, state has an obligation to provide sexual and reproductive health services to its adolescent’s population. Pregnancy and child birth resulting from child marriage has higher risks of maternal mortality and unsafe abortion. Adolescents also face the risk of HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections.

In India, the subject of adolescents’ sexual health is associated with cultural shame and speaking about is hence a taboo. There is much less recognition of adolescents’ rights to sexual and reproductive health. Even four state governments have completely banned sexual health education for adolescents. Adolescents suffer due to misinformation, with no available space they can seek help from.

Under the National Rural Health Mission, government formulated an Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Strategy (ARSH) which promises setting up of ARSH clinics providing counselling and services. The services also include emergency contraceptive pills, reversible methods of birth control, abortion. But there is a huge gap in implementation of this scheme, with non-existence of clinics, doctors and services at most of the places.

The laws in the country too need to recognise and include the rights of adolescents. Laws like the MTP Act, restricts the minors from obtaining abortion without the permission of guardian. For adolescent girls bound in child marriage without the autonomy of decision making, laws like these become an obstruction in leading a healthy life. Moreover, the law exist in contradiction with the provision of abortion and post abortion care for the adolescent girls under the NRHM scheme.

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