Birth of a welcome change: Teenage deliveries among Muslim girls dip by 47% in Kerala

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Early childbearing among Muslim girls recorded the lowest number in a decade in Kerala, as per the latest data for 2022 released by the Department of Economics and Statistics. The figures are based on the statistics of births and deaths registered in 2022 in Kerala.

Going by the figures for the age group of 15-19, teenage deliveries among Muslims was 7,412 in 2022. This is the lowest figure since 2012 (14066), marking a dip of 47 per cent. The dip holds significance considering the fact that average teenage deliveries among Muslim girls in Kerala was above 15,000 in the past 10 years. The highest number of teenage deliveries among Muslims in a decade was 22,924 in 2013. The 2022 figure recorded a drop of 67 per cent from the decade's highest figure.

Figures show that the rate of teenage deliveries among Muslims has been on the decline since 2019. However, the dip in numbers during 2020 and 2021 was mostly attributed to prevalence of Covid-19.
Among Hindus, Muslims and Christians, the highest dip in number of deliveries in the age group 15-19 in a decade was also recorded among Muslims -- 6,654. For Hindus and Christians, the numbers stood at 1749 and 2888 respectively. In terms of decadal dip in percentage Christian teenage deliveries dropped by 87 per cent.

VP Suhara, secretary of NISA (a progressive Muslim women's forum), said that the dip in number of teenage pregnancy is a welcome sign. ''There is an increased vigil against child marriage which is a key factor in bringing down the number of teenage deliveries. Also unlike the past, both parents and girls are keen on getting good education. Even among lower middle class parents, there is an aspiration to get their children educated. This is one reason why we demand an increase in marriage age for women,'' said Suhara.

Teenage deliveries in Kerala also dipped by 48 per cent in a decade, the figures show. From 25,234 in 2012, the number has come down to 12,939 in 2022; the lowest teenage deliveries recorded in the state in 10 years.

Writer and social activist Dr Kadeeja Mumtaz cites that across all religions there is a better level of awareness against early marriages and pregnancy which is also being reflected among Muslims. ''It is not just the parents, even the partners plan their lives with a different perspective,'' she said.

Afifa Safiya Finzi, a 21-year-old student from Kozhikode, echoes this view. ''We all wish for financial independence and self-sufficiency. If we look at past instances, we can see that early marriages or having kids early hasn't made much difference to women's lives. There is an evident Western influence on this generation who are open to more opportunities to study abroad and explore new careers. Only a very few of my friends got married at a young age and even among them, pregnancy rate has been really low. Parents are also open to accepting the fact that we need to study and secure a stable career and life. Marriage is not the priority here,'' said Finzi who is planning to pursue her PG in a foreign university.

Teenage deliveries in Kerala dipped by 48% in a decade. From 25,234 in 2012, the number has come down to 12,939 in 2022; the lowest teenage deliveries recorded in 10 years.

A report by World Health Organization notes that child marriage places girls at increased risk of pregnancy because girls who are married very early typically have limited autonomy to influence decision-making about delaying child-bearing and contraceptive use. Second, in many places, girls choose to become pregnant because they have limited educational and employment prospects and motherhood is valued.

Kerala recorded a total of 4.39 lakh live births in 2022. Alarmingly, mothers aged below 15 recorded seven births in 2022.

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