I kind of have a Colombian girlfriend now.” – Victor
“Cool, does she have a kid?” – Me
“I don’t think so,” Victor. Next day, “yeah she has a kid.” – (A much abbreviated conversation with my Swedish friend in Medellin)
Colombia has the highest teen pregnancy rate in South America. I have read a rate of 20%, though I haven’t checked the numbers myself. Abortions are illegal except in cases where the foetus threatens the health of the mother. One disturbing comment I’ve heard is that many Colombian girls believe that condoms are only for use with prostitutes. It is considered one of the key factors in keeping poverty levels high in Colombia. This is what happens when you get your sex advice from celibate middle-aged men.
Several times I have been surprised to find out a Colombian girl I have met has a kid. While I know it happens everywhere in the world, it’s just jarring how common it seems to be in Colombia. Girls about 19-22 who look like kids themselves have the responsibility of raising another human being. Another common feature is that the fathers almost don’t seem to exist. Often they are not around, and the girls and their families don’t like to talk about them. Legally the fathers are required to pay child support, but I have heard that it is such a hassle to enforce it through the Colombian court system that no-one bothers. Of course there are exceptions, but I didn’t meet any.
Why do I bring this up? No reason in particular, just was a feature of my trip. Of course, focussing on statistics and poverty and the struggles of young single mothers avoids one important detail. Despite the difficulties, in general the mothers seem very loving, attentive and happy with their children.