Yangchen C Rinzin

Of the 330 teenage pregnancy cases recorded by health officials in 2020, only 18 cases were reported to the police.

Police sources confirmed that of the 18 cases, 12 minors were students. “Five minors were impregnated during the lockdown,” a police official said. Even a minor working in the farms and a drayang were impregnated last year.

This year, 12 teenage pregnancy cases were reported to police. They are all students, mostly studying between classes V to X. Some of the girls were impregnated during the lockdown and when schools were closed last year.

A police official said their analysis of the reported cases showed that in most cases, perpetrators were known to the minors. They were either stepfathers, brothers, uncles or neighbours.

The official said most of the victims were living with dependents and come from lower income families. “In some cases, perpetrators were also dependents.”

According to police, teenage pregnancy cases reach police only when schools and hospitals report the matter to them. “But in some cases, it is not reported even if the victim is a minor,” an official said.

The official said lack of access to contraceptive pills during the lockdown and other times resulted in teenage pregnancies. “It was time to create awareness on contraceptive pills.”

Sources also said that it was time to give importance to sex education and teach students about it. “The education ministry and health ministry should come together. There is a serious need of intervention,” a concerned mother said.

Police investigation also revealed that in most teenage pregnancy cases, the girls lacked parenting. “In some cases, it was minors raised by single parents without enough attention,” an official said.

Officials also said it is important to create awareness among youth about laws on the rape and age of consent or consequences of consensual sex.

A police source also said there are minors working in drayang becoming pregnant. “There are laws that prohibit recruiting minors in drayangs, but laws are not followed.”

An official said some rape cases mandated DNA reports. “It is time we have a dedicated DNA forensic unit.”

It was learnt police already have a forensic biologist and chemist, but require a laboratory facility and equipment.

Meanwhile, to ensure that students continue their education, the Women and Child Protection Unit (WCPU) of police is working towards keeping a record of the cases so that they could follow up with the girls and facilitate their return to school.

An official explained that WCPU is also revisiting all data of different sex offenders to monitor the perpetrators in future and that the record of a person is available for any agency to check their background, especially in the case of rape of minors. “We want to analyse the data now instead of only recording. It’ll also help us study the profile of victims and come up with measures to intervene from such cases happening again.

Edited by Tashi Dema