The incidence of premarital sex among Jharkhand youths, particularly in tribal areas, is higher than the national average, says a study that also points to low condom use and little awareness of AIDS in this section.
According to the survey, 17 percent of young men and seven percent of young women indulge in pre-marital sex while the national average is around 15 percent and three percent respectively.
The study titled `Youth in India, Situation and Needs`, which was conducted in six states, including Jharkhand, was released on Tuesday. It was carried out by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, and the Population Council, New Delhi.
`The national pre-marital sex ratio among male youths is around 15 to 16 percent and three to five percent among female youths. The pre-marital sex ratio is a little higher in tribal society mainly because of the fact that tribal communities allow men and women to stay together before marriage,` Usha Ram, an associate professor at IIPS, said.
It says around 19 percent of rural and 10 percent of urban male youths indulge in pre-marital sex. Eight percent of rural female youths indulge in pre-marital sex as compared to two percent urban female youths.
The survey says many of the sexual experiences of the young people were risky. Among those who had sex, one-quarter of young men and one-third of women reported pre-marital sex with more than one partner, and only seven percent of men and two percent of women reported condom use.
The survey report is based on the interviews of 8,814 youths, comprising unmarried women, men and married women between 15 and 24 years, and married men up to 29 years.
The awareness level of youths regarding HIV and AIDS is much below the national average. Only 27 percent of young men and 17 percent of young women had in-depth awareness of HIV/AIDS against the national average of 50 percent.
`The findings confirm the need for sex education,` said Ram.
Just one in 10 young men and one in 20 young women had attended family planning or sex education programmes. `Youth, nevertheless, were overwhelmingly in favour of the provision of family planning or sex education to young people,` she said.
The findings of the study show that young men and women have limited awareness of sexual and reproductive matters such as how pregnancy occurs, HIV and safe sex practices and contraception.
Only one-third of youth (35-36 percent) were aware that a woman can get pregnant while having sex for the first time. Around 36 percent of young men and 47 percent of young women did not know that 18 years is the legal minimum age at marriage for women.
The study noted that early marriage was followed by early pregnancy – 63 percent of the women had their first pregnancy before they were aged 18. The first pregnancy occurred within six months of marriage for 39 percent of young women.
`Early pregnancy – before the girl's body is fully developed and prepared for pregnancy – can have major repercussions for young girls` health and also for the health of the baby they carry. Appropriate measures should be adopted to postpone marriage and postpone pregnancy among girls getting married at an early age,` said Shireen Jejeebhoy, senior Associate of Population Council of India.
IANS / 2009-07-31