The figures for teenage pregnancy in Jamaica are startling; before the age of 20, some 20% of Jamaican women have been pregnant at least once; 48% of males 15-19 years of age do not use condoms with their regular sexual partner, while 41% do not use condoms with a non-regular partner. Jamaica’s teen pregnancy epidemic is hidden beneath many layers of denial, ignorance, and social and cultural misinformation.
Jamaica has experienced marginal economic growth in recent decades and what little money that does come into the country is funneled only into the budget deficit. Many programs suffer, including the social assistance programs that would normally educate young people about sexuality and pregnancy.
Youth friendly services in the country are extremely rare, and unless taught at home, young girls aren’t educated about contraception that could prevent teen pregnancy. 60% of females say they do not use condoms with their regular partner and 46% say they do not use one with their non-regular partner. The boys say they don’t like male condoms, and the girls claim they’re not even aware of the existence of female condoms.
There is more to consider in regards to the Jamaican teenage pregnancy epidemic than just social programs and the budget deficit; many of the people of Jamaica have cultural beliefs that contribute to the problem. Many women see motherhood as a form of status and identity and also a way to eradicate any suspicion of infertility. Many of the girls of Jamaica are receiving mixed information; culturally it seems acceptable to get pregnant, yet socially the country has a strong Christian presence, which teaches abstinence.
Christian beliefs place a sexual taboo on girls and their sexuality, which contributes to the lack of information readily available. This “abstinence only” policy creates secrecy and therefore ignorance contributing to teen pregnancy statistics; adolescents aren’t given information about sexuality, maturation, contraception, or intercourse. Because of the taboo many boys and girls refuse to even purchase condoms in their own communities.
Many myths are also present in Jamaican society as a result of the Christian taboo regarding sex and contraception. Many Jamaican girls believe that douching after intercourse with Pepsi, or engaging in intercourse in the ocean will prevent pregnancy. These myths are all too often relied upon instead of the medical facts, and they contribute to the country-wide ignorance adolescents face in regards to intercourse and teen pregnancy.