Equatorial Guinea’s Pregnant Teen Ban In Schools Sharply Divides The Country

Equatorial Guinea has a birth rate of 110 in 1,000 from pregnant teens aged 15-19 according to figures from World Bank in 2014. It is a greater average than the global average of 44 per 1,000 but it is still lower than some other African countries.

For instance, according to the same World Bank figures referred to above, Niger has 214 pregnant teens in 1000, Mali has 175 in 1000 and Angola has 167 in 1000.

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To curb the trend of these teenage pregnancies in their own country, Equatorial Guinea instituted a new rule last month when the school term began; to enroll, all teenage girls would have to take a pregnancy test. A positive result on the pregnancy test would equal to no education.

Speaking on the new rule, the deputy education minister Maria-Jesus Nkara said on state television that the tough new measure sought to encourage schoolgirls to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies. Although it is still too early in the semester to tell how many girls have been affected by the ban, the ban on pregnant teens has not been widely welcomed.

Pregnant teens

Various right groups have accused the enforcers of the rule for violating the girls right to education. They have described the rule as repressive an especially potent accusation in a country whose president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, has ruled with an iron fist since seizing power in a 1979 coup.

Amnesty International reacted to a similar ruling by Sierra Leone last year when they said in a study released in November 2015;

“Excluding pregnant girls from mainstream schools and banning them from sitting crucial exams is discriminatory and will have devastating consequences.”

“Education is a right and not something for governments to arbitrarily take away as a punishment.”

Besides the sentiments on how it tramples on the right to education, one fear that is held by some people is that of the rise of illegal abortions. Equatorial Guinea only allows pregnancies to be terminated legally when there is a threat to the health of the mother and with the authorisation of the spouse or parents.

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With the new rule, people fear the girls may be tempted to go for illegal abortions which are often quite dangerous. There is also the lingering annoyance that most of the time, the pregnancies are not a direct fault of the girls.

Poor families in Equatorial Guinea still use their daughters as trading chips for a better chance at life and there is still little legislative protection for minors which translate to regular sexual harassment that can sometimes end in pregnancies.

Despite all these valid arguments, the ban on pregnant teens in school in Equatorial Guinea is still very much on.