Over the past 50 years, fertility has fallen by between 30% and 70% in Latin American and Caribbean countries, basically as a result of women’s incorporation into the labour market, gains in education, the general improvement of living conditions and the use of modern contraceptive methods. Nevertheless, the number of children per woman continues to differ widely by socioeconomic status, educational level and ethnic origin. The rise in the number of adolescent pregnancies also gives cause for concern owing to its significant impact on education and the opportunities available to young people, particularly in poor households, where the phenomenon is more prevalent.
Although concern about inequality and the rights- and gender-based approach are cross-cutting aspects of all population and development issues, they are particularly important with regard to adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health. These areas need to be treated as a priority in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The issue of sexual and reproductive health figures prominently in the public agenda in Latin American and Caribbean countries, and this was duly reflected in the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development, which sets out a number of priority measures for ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services. The Consensus also includes a special section on ensuring adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health services and to comprehensive sex education programmes, as well as measures to improve these programmes.
CELADE has devoted special attention to this issue, through the provision of direct technical assistance to the region’s countries. It also lends technical support for schemes aimed at preventing adolescent pregnancy and prepares several publications on the subject. CELADE included reproductive inequality as one of the dimensions of inequality covered by Compacts for Equality: Towards a Sustainable Future, the working document of the thirty-fifth session of ECLAC, held in Lima, and has kept a spotlight on the great social inequality that remains a hallmark of adolescent motherhood in the region.