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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Adolescent pregnancies and girls' sexual and reproductive rights in the amazon basin of Ecuador: an analysis of providers' and policy makers' discourses

Isabel Goicolea12*, Marianne Wulff2, Miguel San Sebastian1 and Ann Öhman13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology and Global Health. Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

3 Umeå Centre for Gender Studies. Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

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BMC International Health and Human Rights 2010, 10:12  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-12

Published: 7 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Adolescent pregnancies are a common phenomenon that can have both positive and negative consequences. The rights framework allows us to explore adolescent pregnancies not just as isolated events, but in relation to girls' sexual and reproductive freedom and their entitlement to a system of health protection that includes both health services and the so called social determinants of health. The aim of this study was to explore policy makers' and service providers' discourses concerning adolescent pregnancies, and discuss the consequences that those discourses have for the exercise of girls' sexual and reproductive rights' in the province of Orellana, located in the amazon basin of Ecuador.

Methods

We held six focus-group discussions and eleven in-depth interviews with 41 Orellana's service providers and policy makers. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using discourse analysis, specifically looking for interpretative repertoires.

Results

Four interpretative repertoires emerged from the interviews. The first repertoire identified was "sex is not for fun" and reflected a moralistic construction of girls' sexual and reproductive health that emphasized abstinence, and sent contradictory messages regarding contraceptive use. The second repertoire -"gendered sexuality and parenthood"-constructed women as sexually uninterested and responsible mothers, while men were constructed as sexually driven and unreliable. The third repertoire was "professionalizing adolescent pregnancies" and lead to patronizing attitudes towards adolescents and disregard of the importance of non-medical expertise. The final repertoire -"idealization of traditional family"-constructed family as the proper space for the raising of adolescents while at the same time acknowledging that sexual abuse and violence within families was common.

Conclusions

Providers' and policy makers' repertoires determined the areas that the array of sexual and reproductive health services should include, leaving out the ones more prone to cause conflict and opposition, such as gender equality, abortion provision and welfare services for pregnant adolescents. Moralistic attitudes and sexism were present - even if divergences were also found-, limiting services' capability to promote girls' sexual and reproductive health and rights.