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Teen Moms

By Pinar Istek

Phone calls after phone calls for days…All anxiously made on both sides of the phone line. Talking to a neighbor first, talking to her parents, and then talking to another relative… Multiple phone calls with the same person... Each one of them suspiciously questions us, trying to understand if we were from the court or social services. Finally, a contact was set with a 15 year old girl who is a mother of a 4 month-old baby.

Smiling innocently, she came out of her house with a mop in her hand. Even though her young body seemed grown up enough, her face was still in the shade of her adolescence. She kindly invited us to her kitchen table, and gazed upon us with curiosity and restlessness about the coming conversation topic - teen pregnancy and sexual education.

"The thing is… I don't know," the 15 year-old girl responded with a juvenile smile blended with shyness, when she was asked why she didn't use any contraceptives during intercourse with her boyfriend. Today she lives with her partner and 4 month-old baby. She dropped out of school when she was pregnant. Her experimentation with sex started around age 13-14.

In 2009, more than 10 girls a week who are under age 15, got pregnant in Costa Rica. Yet, a proposed sexual education program by Ministry of Education which was supposed to start in 2009, got postponed to 2012.

That same year, Costa Rica also had 14,117 documented teen pregnancy cases between the ages of 15 and 19. However, the country still doesn't have classes on sexual education implemented nation wide in public schools.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, Latin America and the Caribbean with a 22% rate, have the highest rate of adolescent girls who start being sexually active before age 15.


State of Sexual Education In Costa Rica
Costa Rican public schools aren't complete strangers to the concept of sexual education. According to a 17 year-old teen who went to Nosara High School, they received sexual education in science and biology classes in 6th and 7th grade. However, he commented that the schools "should go into more details in sexual education, instead of just giving scientific facts."

In relation to detailed sexual education, Juan Jose Juarez Perez, priest of the Nosara Catholic Church, said a complete sexual education should have sexual training as well as sexual information. He said, "Before we are Christians, we are human beings. Sexuality should be integrated to human beings. That's why it is important to have sexual formation as a human value beyond a religious value."

On the other hand, Carmen Gomez Solorzano, a psychological counselor from Nosara High School, informed us that the school implemented a program called "orientation" in February 2011. While it is mainly focused on life and how to become an individual in general, it also mentions sexual education topics. According to Anayanci Casares Guevara, who teaches psychology and religion at Nosara High School, they not only give scientific facts about human sexuality, but also talk about social and psychological aspects of a relationship as well as possible consequences of intercourse.

Nevertheless, a teen, who attended this High School five years ago, commented that the orientation program existed when he was in school too. He said "It wasn't really a class. It was more of a free time."

Church's point of view
Estaban Remírez, the director of the Costa Rican movie Gestación, who used his medium,cinema, as "a tool to break the ice", said "I think it is kind of difficult, and it (sexual education) is always be a delicate subject." In relation to the influence of the church in Costa Rica, the director commented that, "Catholics are not that open to sex or to know about sex. That's why there are a lot of people who don't know how to have information about sex. You have to be more open about this."

That being said, the Catholic Church of Nosara and the Evangelical Church of Nosara have distinct standpoints on the question of sexual education.

Agreeing on the power of the voice of church in Costa Rica and considering the life changing and threatening consequences of unprotected sex, such as teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, Juarez Perez, priest of the Nosara Catholic Church, addressed the necessity of sexual education as a form of defense of life, "Sexual training is an orientation toward a fulfilled life. I know that the rest of the world has a distinct perception of the church. However, the idea of defense of life is not an idea of church. It is beyond religion. Therefore, independent from the religion, race and sex etc,. all human beings defend life with all its values. And to be able to help this, we should also pay attention on the scope of sexuality."

Additionally, Henry Matarita Guiterraz, Minister of the Evangelical Church in Nosara said "It is very important to have sexual education. Maybe not for them to have sex liberally, but it is for them to know what it is when the marriage time comes."


On the other hand, Monsignor Hugo Barrantes, president of the Costa Rica Episcopal Conference, said that "Spiritual and moral dimensions must always prevail in any sexual education, which does not occur in the majority of programs taught in schools."

Not only receiving it but also listening to it
Regarding sexual education, a 17 year-old boy whose 18 year-old girlfriend is 2 months pregnant, said "It is not the point of you receive it but listening to it." The 17 year-old teenager added "she (his girlfriend) had been on the pills. The condom broke once. At the moment you don't care. About a month later we found out about the pregnancy. One time the condom breaks! Later you realize the consequences and changes in your life."

When his mother heard about it, she said "I cried. I thought he had basically just ruined all his dreams." For her son's case, which was a misfortune, she commented "I understand the accident. It doesn't make it better, but I understand it."

Even though having a pregnant girlfriend had a significant impact on his life, this 17 year-old teen hasn't given up on his dreams. He said he would still work toward fulfilling his future plans, but only "accompanied by two more people." His mother, also hoping that he would continue with his education, said "I pray to God every day that he will continue and get his education."

Happy to have her baby, the 15 year-old teen wasn't as lucky. She preferred dropping out of school during her pregnancy and hasn't returned yet. However, she is still planning on going back to school next year and has dreams of having a job in the future.

Importance of Providing Sexual Education In Early Ages
According to the Costa Rica Demographic Association (Asociación Demográfica Costarricense-ADC), sexual education is a human right. Therefore lack of sexual education is a violation of human rights.

Some of the main reasons for the urgency of implementing sexual education programs in schools, according to UNICEF's State of Children In the World 2011, is the precocious sexuality of kids experiments and the difference between male and female teens in terms of familiarity with sexual and reproductive health. There is an urgent need to provide knowledge about the sexual and reproductive health of adolescent girls, in view of the dangers they face in many countries and communities because of their gender.

Juan Jose Licam, director of Nicoya Hospital, commented that today, because teens started being sexual active earlier than ever before, it is very important to start giving sexual education at an early stage as well. He said "It is necessary to have sexual education at schools for their personal health and prevention from the possible consequences."

Since a sexual education program is still in process, Katherine Díaz, who works at the Ministry of Education Press Office, refused to answers our questions about it at this point but, when asked why they postponed the implementation of the program to 2012, she informed us that " It is a gradual process that require the approval of the council."


While the Ministry of Education gradually develops a sexual program, more than 40 teen girls a month will keep getting pregnant in Costa Rica. Whether it is naivety, ineptitude or less openness, each year thousands of teen girls in the country fall prey to pregnancy at an early age. With so many being uneducated about the subject of sexual and reproductive health, the numbers scream for the necessity of high quality sexual education in public schools of the country.


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