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  • Human Rights Research Center

Dominican Women's Battle Against Child Marriage and Teen Pregnancy Amid Abortion Restrictions

January 10, 2024

Teen Club Members Gather for a Sex Education Session Led by Volunteer Marcia González in Azua, Dominican Republic on December 9, 2023. [Credit: AP Photo | Maria Hernansez]

Cited Article from the Associated Press

HRRC underscores the necessity for safeguarding reproductive health, promoting comprehensive sex education, and addressing child marriage issues in the Dominican Republic. We advocate for essential positive changes in the protective measures for younger women.

News Brief

In the Dominican Republic, where abortion is criminalized without exceptions and women face up to 2 years in prison for having an abortion, activists have been advocating for comprehensive sex education for over 40 years. Despite President Luis Abinader's commitment to decriminalize abortion, progress has been slow, and the powerful lobby of Catholics and evangelicals opposing it remains influential. To address the lack of sex education, activists have established "teenage clubs" where adolescents learn about sexual and reproductive rights, self-esteem, gender violence, and financial literacy. These efforts aim to empower young Dominican women in a context where close to 30% of adolescents lack access to contraception, and poverty exacerbates the risks of unplanned pregnancies.

The teenage clubs also tackle broader issues, such as child marriage and gender violence, which persist in Dominican society. Poverty often forces some mothers to marry their teenage daughters to significantly older men, and gender violence affects nearly 7 out of 10 women, with families often remaining silent about sexual abuse. Despite laws prohibiting child marriage since 2021, the practice remains common due to normalization and lack of awareness. Activists hope that education through these clubs can prevent girls from facing these challenging circumstances, providing them with knowledge, support, and mentorship to shape their futures positively.


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