Young Samoans are becoming sexually active as early as 14 years of age.
So reveals a survey by the Samoa National Youth Council which has found evidence that a minority of young people between the ages of 14-19 are currently married or in defacto relationships.
The report released publicly last month noted that although the rate of 2.4 per cent is small, it is a concern nonetheless.
“This also reflects that this is the age group where youth become sexually active.
“The marital status of the respondents by gender with 13.8% of the male sample currently married or in a de – facto relationship (8.6% currently married, 4.94% currently de – facto) and 27.22% of the female sample currently married or in a de – facto relationship (i.e. 17.09% currently married, 10.13% currently de – facto).
“The results reveal that of the two genders, it is the female population that has the highest number in social status by way of marriage or defacto relationships and or living with a man or woman.
“Observations during the conduct of the survey on the 27.22% of young women who marry or are in a de – facto relationship show a predilection towards marrying or living with older men outside of their age range.”
According to the report, the preference mentioned can be attributed to the implied fact that older men have a maturity that is lacking among their younger male peers in particular the capacity to take care of one’s family which was found through extended dialogue with the female population as more of a priority among them when choosing a partner.
The report points to an area of concern given that the observations and further queries by the enumerators revealed that the majority of the young men in this sample group were of the legal marital age i.e. 18 years old, but the young women on the other hand were mostly not of the age of consent but needed parental consent to marry.
“In addition, it was found that several of the identified young women from this group had two to three children by the time they were 17 or 19.
“It implies that these young women became pregnant as early as 14 years old and the seriousness of such an inference means that despite existing services and legislation there are gaps and challenges that such mechanisms have not addressed adequately.
“Given that the current Crimes Act 2013 penalises sexual conduct with a young person below the age of 16, this is a cause for concern and requires further investigation by relevant authorities.”
The report also notes the collected data reflects a rising number of sexually active youths.
“With limited access or awareness about safe sexual practices and reproductive health and rights, there is also the possible high number of sexually transmitted diseases left undiagnosed or untreated.
“The rate of teen pregnancies also indicates a rising number of young women raising babies. “Such circumstance impact the ability of youths to being economically active and increases the number of population who are highly dependent.”
Furthermore the survey notes that comprehensive education and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights was also another issue that was identified throughout the survey.
“This was apparent in the high number of young women who left school early due to teen pregnancy and the reason why most young women cannot complete their education nor find employment.
“There is not enough recognition of the importance of a young woman’s right to not only sexual health but to body autonomy with regards to ownership of her reproductive health.”