Young, pregnant and alone in HK

By Nicole Wong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-05 10:13

Hong Kong: The SAR is famous for its Chinese Lunar New Year, Christmas and New Year's Eve revelries, and local youngsters are no strangers to celebration.

Nor are they unacquainted with the consequences of the loosened inhibitions that so often accompany a night on the town.

The experience of 15-year-old Carrie (not her real name) is representative of the troubles facing many modern young Hongkongers. She traces her regrets back to New Year's Eve 2006.

"I got drunk at a party and spent the night with a guy I'd just met. When a month later I broke the news that I'd got pregnant, he walked out on me," said Carrie, still quivering from the shock. "Two of my close friends took me to a clinic in Shenzhen where they had had their abortions when they were 14."

Carrie's story would be familiar to many underage Hong Kong girls who have suffered the painful consequences of unprotected sex. And with girls having their first sexual experiences at ever-younger ages, more and more young people risk suffering the effects of such encounters.

A survey carried out by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (FYG) in November showed that half of the 105 respondents aged between 13 and 20 had had sex before the age of 16. One of them said she had had her first sexual encounter at the age of 10.

"Many of our clients become sexually active at the age of 14 or 15," said FYG youth work officer Chan Lai-shan. "Some of them run away from home and stay with a boyfriend, though most stay with friends and go home later. Many even change boyfriends one after the other."

FYG unit-in-charge Luk Wai-kwok said the problem appeared to stem from unhappy relationships at home and at school since most of the girls wanted love and comfort from their boyfriends rather than casual sex.

"They associate sex with love and seek refuge in their partners, though we urge them to think about the depth of their relationships with their boyfriends," Luk said. "Our aim is to raise their awareness and teach them how to protect themselves in a sexual relationship."

Chu Fung, the project manager of Caritas Youth & Community Service's Play Safe Healthy Life Project, said young people should receive more education on birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and related subjects.

"Many underage girls are unable to have safe sex and go for illegal abortions afterwards. But even then they fail to learn a lesson and get pregnant again," Chu said. "Most have no clue where to get their girlfriends to undergo health a check-up and let their ailments go untreated."

Both FYG and the Play Safe Healthy Life Project arrange for doctors to conduct check-ups and surgery and provide pregnancy-prevention and post-abortion counselling.

However, Chu called for a better official response, saying Hong Kong should offer more sexual health services for teenagers.

"It's not possible for an underage girl to go to a government clinic or the Family Planning Association because she will obviously be worried about the consequences," Chu says. "The problem remains mostly buried because it's not addressed explicitly by public institutions."

Christina Cheung, the senior counsellor for the Family Planning Association (FPA), said her organization had set up youth healthcare centers that offer comprehensive counselling and medical services to unmarried people younger than 26.

"We handle cases of young girls seeking help with anything from contraception and pregnancy tests to counselling. Last year we handled 50 abortion cases of girls aged 16 and below," Cheung said.

Few of the underage girls who had received an abortion after counselling had reported new unwanted pregnancies in the past three years, according to FPA statistics.

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