'Pregnant' schoolgirl display shocks Venezuelans

Wed Nov 12, 2014 1:37pm EST
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By Andrew Cawthorne

CARACAS (Reuters) - A display showing mannequins of pregnant schoolgirls at a Caracas mall is shocking shoppers and stirring debate over sex education in Venezuela.

Two local charities have dressed up three mannequins behind a shop window as girls with bulging stomachs under the blue uniforms used by school children here until age 15.

The idea is to draw attention to an adolescent pregnancy rate they say is one of the worst in South America with one girl under-18 becoming pregnant every three minutes and 23 percent of all births coming in that age category.

"I think it's horrible, awful. If I was a mother, I wouldn't want my child to see that," said scandalized student Kelly Hernandez, 18, clasping her hand over her mouth as she took a double-take at the display on Wednesday.

Her friend Auriselvia Torrealba, 20, was more sympathetic, seeing a higher purpose to the shock campaign.

"Yes, it's disturbing to see in a window. But it's the truth. You see pregnant girls all the time on the streets. So this forces you to think about the problem, doesn't it?"

While Venezuela's socialist government says education and children's rights have improved enormously during its 15 years in power, non-governmental agencies say sex education needs to be improved and parents need to take the subject more seriously.

The two children's charities behind the campaign, Fundana and Construyendo Futuros, are delighted with the controversy and publicity around their display.   Continued...

Mannequins of pregnant schoolgirls are seen in a shop window at a shopping mall in Caracas November 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins