Geetha Sethi, director at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), says protecting the rights of the nation's youth population is critical to the country's development.
"One of immediate concern is the rights of the convention of the child, which states that all children should be able to live a life free of threats of violence or abuse of any kind," she said.
Speaking last Wednesday at the World Population Day 2012 Symposium at Emancipation Park in St Andrew, Sethi said the young are the country's biggest asset and thus good health is a necessity.
She said "the right to education, one of the issues we have is that majority of the young girls who are impregnated tend to drop out of the education system and often do not return after pregnancy".
Sethi also highlighted the fact that certain aspects of the legislation are confusing.
"The age of sexual consent is 16 but the age of full access to medical services, including HIV testing and contraception, is 18. This makes it confusing for young people as well as health-care providers and tends to put them in difficult situations," she added.
The UNFPA representative also underscored the need for adolescents to gain full access to information. She said a critical element of this is access to the information and the skills required to make informed decisions about if, when and with whom they engage in sexual relations, so that they are better able to live happy, healthy lives and realise their full potential.
The highest rate of sexually transmitted infections is among young people aged 15 to 14 years old in most developing countries. Additionally, pregnancy and childbirth related complications are the major cause of death among girls 10 to 19 years old in these countries.
"With an adolescent fertility rate of 72 births per 1,000 young women between from the ages of 15 to 19, teen pregnancy continues to be a major concern in Jamaica. It is often driven by poverty, lack of education, information and sadly abuse of young girls by adults who should be their protectors," Sethi stated.
"UNFPA reaffirms its commitment to work with all of its partners to advance universal access to reproductive health. This is key for reducing poverty, social and economic inequality; improving the well-being of people and safeguarding the health and rights of women, men and young people," she added.