TEEN pregnancies continue to rise in Panama and 54% of men who got girls under 15 pregnant were adults says a disturbing report from the Ministry of Education (Meduca).
Between January and February of this year, three out of ten pregnant women attending public health system were under 19 years, which the World Health Organization qualifies as a teenager.
In total, 2,097 young people received health checks to pregnancy during that period. The figure revealed by the Ministry of Health notes that, currently, the teen pregnancy rate is 30.8%. The index for all of 2012 was 26.8%.
Meduca reported an 8% growth in the number of pregnant students including fourth grade girls, and girls younger than 10 years old who have become mothers.
The Comptroller General of Panama in January revealed figures which included girls under 19 with eight children.
The crisis is compounded by knowing that 54% of men who got girls under 15 pregnant are adults although consenting sex between adults and adolescents under 15 years carries up to 10 years in prison for the adult.
The highest rate of young pregnancies this year is registered in Panama east, where 39 out of every 100 pregnancies are adolescents. In contrast, the lowest rate is in Los Santos with 25%.
For the school year 2012, Meduca recorded 1,312 thousand pregnant students, 99 more than in 2011.
Among the reported cases include three fourth graders in Colon and Cocle provinces plus the Kuna Yala region, one of which is 10 years old.
The Criminal Code states that relations with a child under 15 years is punishable by 5-10 years in prison. For a child over 15 years, the penalty is 2-4 years,.
Th Comptroller's report shows there were cases of children under 15 who have had their third child and a teenager of 19 who had her eighth child.
A spokesman said Meduca is aware of the situation and has announced a deepening of values-based training plans, says La Prensa
Meduca pedagogicpsycholgist cabinet director, Luz María Córdoba said that the task should also engage the parents of all students, and that the institution will provide several sexuality training projects this year.
The idea, said Cordoba, is that parents learn to address this issue with their children. Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister of Education, Mirna de Crespo, said that more emphasis should be placed on rural and indigenous areas.
Sociologist Rubiela Sanchez said one of the first tasks to achieve lower rates of early pregnancy in the country is the training of teachers in sexual and reproductive health.
"You must train personnel. What happens is that many of them have the same parents taboos about sexuality," said the sociologist.
Sanchez believes that sex education should be provided to children when they are in preschool, adapting educational content to every age.
"We know that more information related to sexuality of young people, delays the onset of sexual relations and improves their life projects," she said.