What?! Pregnant schoolgirl mannequins shock mall shoppers in Venezuela

Shopping? You're not seeing things. That's a mannequin portraying a pregnant schoolgirl.

The display of pregnant schoolgirl mannequins is turning heads at a mall in Venezuela.

It has also sparked a debate on the country's high adolescent pregnancy rate.

The three mannequins are dressed in blue school uniforms, which school girls under 15 typically wear. They're the brainchild of two local charities who want to draw attention to the issue.

Venezuela's adolescent pregnancy rate is one of the highest in South America: One girl under-18 becomies pregnant every three minutes.

And a whopping 23 per cent of all births come from that age group.

Some Venezualans were appalled at the display. Student Kelly Hernandez, 18, said: "I think it's horrible, awful. If I'm a mother, I wouldn't want my child to see that."

But her friend understood the message behind the campaign, which will run for a month.

Auriselvia Torrealba, 20, said:

"Yes, it's disturbing to see (the display). But it's the truth. You see pregnant girls all the time on the streets.

So this forces you to think about them, doesn't it?"

High number of teenage pregnancies

This display comes just days after a United Nations (UN) women's rights watchdog expressed "deep concern" about the country's high rate of teenage pregnancies.

According to the most recent UN data, Venezuela's adolescent birth rate of 101 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 makes it one of the highest in Latin America in 2010.

Maternal mortality was 92 per 100,000 live births, around mid-range for the region.

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

Construyendo Futuros president Thalma Cohen said:

"It's amazing seeing people react as they walk by. This is such a taboo subject in Venezuela, we want people to talk about it.

"Some people get angry and complain. Others congratulate us."

Source: Reuters

teenagerSouth America