Representative Image.
Representative Image.(Photo | AFP)

Among 15 TN districts, Dharmapuri tops in teen pregnancy

Govt hospitals reported 8,742 cases in last 3 yrs, says RTI reply

MADURAI : A staggering 8,742 underage pregnancies were reported in government hospitals in 15 districts in TN over the past three years, according to a Right To Information (RTI) reply received by a health activist.

Dharmapuri had the highest number of underage pregnancies at 3,249, while Karur and Vellore were placed second and third respectively.

As per the RTI reply received by activist A Veronica Mary, the pregnancies were reported between January 2021 and December 2023. When compared to bigger cities such as Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai, Dharmapuri reported the highest number of underage pregnancies. The data is based on cases registered at government medical college hospitals alone.

Mary said that if data from Primary Health Centres and private hospitals are taken into consideration, then the numbers would exceed 10,000. “If underage pregnancies are reported, the hospital administration must immediately inform the child helpline at 1098. They must also alert the district child protection officer, the police and the social welfare department. However, in reality, there were multiple violations in implementing the rules and regulations under the Pocso Act,” she said.

The activist further said that the increasing number of underage pregnancies is a serious problem and must be addressed promptly as it not only affects the development of women but society as a whole.

“Social welfare departments in all districts, as well as the police and school education officials need to join hands and put an end to this issue. Between 2021 and July 2023, the 1098 child helpline was handled by an NGO and the calls must be reviewed. Appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the welfare of children who were physically and mentally affected during this period,” Mary said.

Responding to the issue, Health Secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi said underage pregnancies are a societal problem and must be avoided by preventing child marriages across the state.

“The police registered all reported cases as per the norms. All district collectors have been asked to review the cases. In the meanwhile, the health and social welfare departments are jointly spreading awareness regarding various aspects, including the health issues of girl children and the legal options as per the provisions of the Pocso Act,” Bedi said.

He also stated that every underage pregnancy was considered a high risk case and the health department is handling it with caution, keeping in mind the physical and mental well-being of the victim.

The New Indian Express