Jide Idris, Lagos commissioner for health, says 24.2 per cent of women in the state had their first sexual intercourse before the age of 18.

Idris said this while speaking on ‘Reproductive Health: Beyond Cultural Limitations and Concerns’ at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos.

He said the Nigerian women that have sex before the age of 18 is about 51 per cent.

He said out of this statistics, one of every four women in Lagos would have been exposed to sex before 18 while the national average is one of two women.

“The difference in these figures might be attributed to several factors, such as female education, urbanization, child marriages etc. With an average age at first birth at 20 years, about 22.5 per cent of pregnancies are by teenagers in Nigeria,” Idris said.

“More worrying, however, is that reports show that as at this year, about 40 per cent of women in the south-west have experienced physical violence since age 15 and sexual violence cannot be excluded from these statistics.

“In other words, in a country where more than 60 per cent of its population are young people and significant numbers of these young people are exposed to sexual intercourse at an early age either voluntarily or violently, a lot of potential problems emerge.

“Such problems are associated with sexually transmitted infections, childhood pregnancy, trauma and its accompanying physical and mental health implications. This means that there must be access to knowledge about sexual health and systems that modify behaviour, as well as, access to services that prevent and manage them.”

He listed issues that affected reproductive health to include age, rural-urban dwellers, education, socio-economic status, work, cultural and social norms, such as female genital mutilation, early marriage; female disinheritance, gender and socio-economic issues, human rights, existing laws, policies, regulations and strategies.

Idris said to improve the reproductive health system, there must be education, increased investment in health, good governance, social and economic empowerment of women, strengthening health services, development of a rights-based code of ethics and domestication of international conventions.

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