ERDENEBULGAN, ARKHANGAI PROVINCE, MONGOLIA — Seventeen-year-old Gerelee’s rosy face turns deep purple as she considers the sharp swerve of her life previously 12 months.
“Even now, I can not consider that I’ve develop into a mom,” she says, wanting down at her 6-day-old daughter.
Charges of teenage being pregnant in Mongolia, albeit properly beneath the worldwide common, have been till just lately among the many highest within the western Pacific area, largely attributable to poor sexual and reproductive well being schooling, restricted entry to reproductive well being take care of adolescents, and a reluctance to debate intercourse at residence. Every year, some 4,000 women develop into pregnant, 650 of whom sometimes terminate their pregnancies. In Mongolia, abortion is authorized till 22 weeks, with late-term abortions — between 13 and 22 weeks — requiring medical supervision. Minors, nonetheless, want the consent of a mum or dad or guardian to terminate their pregnancies.
In some households, pregnant women don’t inform their mother and father till it’s too late. “A mom introduced her daughter in pondering she had gained weight,” says Nomin-Erdene Altangerel, senior doctor on the Shim Bileg Household Well being Middle, “when, in actual fact, the daughter was eight months pregnant. There’s typically no choice aside from giving delivery as soon as the fetus is older than 5 months.” Some women don’t even notice they’re pregnant till then — in accordance with one survey, almost 20% of teenage moms stated they discovered after 5 months. Greater than three-quarters stated that they had by no means used contraceptives.
Gerelee, who requested partial anonymity attributable to concern of stigma, says she hid her being pregnant from her mother and father for 5 months. “I sometimes talked about replica with my older sister however by no means with my mother and father,” she says. “Since mother and father should not educated on these points, they’re unable to debate it with their kids,” says Dr. Oyun-Erdene Bolduukhai, dean of the household and psychology college on the Worldwide College of Ulaanbaatar. Furthermore, she says, faculties additionally sometimes fail college students on this regard. Between 7% and 11% of the content material coated in well being and biology class in public faculties offers with reproductive well being — which the nation’s human rights fee deems “extraordinarily inadequate.”
“Now we have a well being topic, however they don’t precisely educate intercourse schooling,” says Enerlen Batbaatar, an eleventh grader at a public college. “Since we don’t have anybody to speak about it, we typically discover data on the web.”
“I do know I want to speak to my kids,” says Odontuya Daramkhuu, a mom of 4. “However I don’t know easy methods to discuss to them. Once I was a teen, I by no means talked about it with my mother and father or my siblings, so I fear about how my kids will react, that they may misunderstand, and never wish to discuss to their mom once more.”
Others assume their kids are receiving intercourse schooling at college. “We don’t discuss it as a result of we expect it’s coated in class,” says Munkhgerel, a mom of three who requested partial anonymity for a similar cause. She was stunned to study that always this isn’t the case.
Khorloo Khukhnokhoi, GPJ Mongolia
“Adolescence is a vital stage of development and growth, and it is a vital interval to put the inspiration for well being schooling,” says Orolzodmaa Baasankhuu, officer answerable for youth, males and reproductive well being on the Mongolian well being ministry. At the moment, there are 34 clinics — run by medical doctors, nurses and/or social employees — that present complete well being companies for Mongolian youth throughout the nation, she says, including that in 2021, 3.6% of all births have been by youngsters, a lower of 0.3% from the earlier 12 months.
Whereas mother and father sometimes chorus from speaking about intercourse, it’s fairly widespread for them to carry their daughters to the hospital to have an abortion, says Khulan Bat-Erdene, head of the Orkhon chapter of the Mongolian Household Welfare Affiliation, a nonprofit working towards common entry to sexual well being care. (Youngsters accounted for 4.7% of all abortions in 2021, down by 0.1% from the earlier 12 months, Orolzodmaa says.) Abortion as de facto contraception within the absence of intercourse schooling is a violation of ladies’ rights, she says. “Having an abortion as a teen isn’t solely dangerous when it comes to well being but additionally creates enormous psychological concern in women — they lose confidence in constructing a household and giving delivery as soon as they’re adults.”
In recent times, there was unprecedented scrutiny on younger Mongolians’ sexual and reproductive well being rights. In 2021, after college students started protesting the apply, Mongolia prohibited so-called virginity testing in faculties, though International Press Journal reporting signifies that these compelled examinations have been nonetheless happening final 12 months. Activists working to extend younger folks’s entry to sexual well being care additionally decry the state’s gendered focus — educating adolescent boys on secure intercourse, as an example, can drastically cut back undesirable teenage pregnancies. “That’s the reason I ask each girls and boys to attend once I set up trainings on reproductive well being at faculties,” Khulan says.
“I felt shy attending the coaching alongside the boys in my class,” says Narangoo Gankhuu, a ninth grade scholar. “However afterward I understood the significance of intercourse schooling.”
On-line, some have taken issues into their very own palms. The Ready Room, a podcast by two Germany-based Mongolian ladies of their late 20s and early 30s, explores subjects deemed too risque in different quarters: virginity, queerness, intercourse for folks with disabilities. Their YouTube channel has over 125,000 subscribers and over 17 million views whole. “I began listening to the Ready Room podcast in 2021,” says Maralmaa Ayurzana, 15. “I used to be just a little shy at first, afraid that folks would discover out.” However the extra she listened, the extra she realized — and unlearned. “For instance, there’s a perception amongst women that they won’t get pregnant the primary time they sleep with somebody — which is wrong,” she says. “I’m very blissful that such a podcast has appeared.”
Gerelee, who plans to graduate this 12 months, needs she had entry to such data earlier. Her life has modified drastically previously 12 months. She desires to be a hairdresser and obtained certification for it final 12 months — however in the meanwhile, she and her youngster’s father live along with her mother and father of their rural residence, in order that the household might help increase the kid. There isn’t any alternative to be a hairdresser right here.
“I want faculties taught classes on replica, and I want college students have been conscious of contraceptive strategies,” she says. “Personally, I’m pondering of utilizing contraception after two months.”