Indian adolescents girls are worse than even those in world’s poorest region -- Sub-Saharan Africa – in terms of nutrition and empowerment whereas a majority of boys are at high risk because of their sexual activity, a new United Nations report on adolescents on Friday said.
The report, ‘Adolescence an Age of Opportunity’, released three days before the union budget had found that 63 per cent of the Indian boys in the age group of 15-19 were engaged in high-risk sex with non-marital, non-cohabitating partner as compared to just one percent girls in the same age group.
Still it was lowest in the developing world with the highest being in South Africa with 95 % boys and 99 % girls reporting high risk sex. The report found sexual activity among Asian children below the age of 15, including India, to be lowest in the world.
Indian adolescent (10-19 years) constitute about 20 per cent of total adolescents in the world with a figure of 243 million. About 35 % of boys and 19 % of girls have a comprehensive knowledge about the HIV/AIDS, which is highest among the developing world.
The good part ends here.
The Indian adolescent girl (15-19) is among most deprived globally, with 47 % being malnourished, highest in the world, and 56 % being anemic, second to sub-saharan Africa.
“Such nutritional deprivation continue throughout the life cycle and are often passed on to the next generation,” the report in a special page dedicated to India said.
The bad health gets aggravated with three in five women aged 20-49 getting married when they were adolescents as compared to one in 5 men and giving birth to a child in anemic condition.
Another indicator of continuing trend of early marriage was that in 2009, 27 % of Indian adolescent girls were married as compared to 23 % in the sub-saharan Africa. Overall, child marriage rate in India was 47 % in 2007, highest in the world.
Karin Hulshof, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) permanent representative in India complemented Indian government for reducing gender disparity among children up to 10 years of age but said that the “adolescents have been left out” and they were a new challenge for the government.
Admitting that there is no figure on how much the government spends on adolescents, D N Sikri, secretary Women and Child Development ministry, emphasized on number of number of interventions for adolescents, especially the girls. “We have introduced nutrition and health scheme for adolescent girls called SABLA in 200 districts. Already, 1.12 crore girls have registered to be beneficiaries under the scheme,” he said.Majority of Indian earning adolescent girls have no power to decide on how to spend their earnings and justified beating by husband. "More than half of the girls in these 200 districts are school drop-outs," Sikri said.
Some NGO interventions such as Deepshikha in Chandrapur district had helped in getting girls enrolled back into the schools. Another in Maharashtra of giving life skill training to young girls has helped in extending the average marriage age by one year.