Dashboard on Youth Sexual & Reproductive Health: South & Southeast Asia

This data dashboard provides a regional snapshot of key indicators on youth sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and their implications for youth in the South and Southeast Asia region. To view the other regional dashboards, click on the links below:

Click any of the highlighted countries to see all indicators available for a more complete picture of youth SRH. If you would like to compare data across countries, visit the Country Comparison Database.

Please note that countries missing bars in the following charts did not collect or report for the specified indicator. See the sources used to compile the dashboard's data and definitions of all the indicators.


Many countries in South and Southeast Asia have seen rapid population growth, which has resulted in a disproportionately young population. The large youth population has led to a phenomenon known as the “youth bulge” which occurs when children and young people account for a large share of the country’s total population. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the region. When young people are healthy and empowered they can accelerate development and be catalysts for sustainable change. Sexual and reproductive health needs must be met and gender equality improved to ensure that youth are able to reach their full potential as individuals and dictate the trajectory of region’s future.

Population aged 10-19, Total (thousands) 2011

Population aged 10-19, Proportion of total population (%) 2011


In recent years, many South and Southeast Asian countries have dramatically improved the quality of education and increased young people’s access to education, but gender disparities persist. Literacy rates among young people continue to improve, but in nearly every country in the region, young men are more likely to achieve at least a secondary education than young women. In rural areas, girls often drop out of school as a result of early marriage. Poverty is linked to school dropout, because many youth leave school in search of employment. Among those who do complete their education, very few attend an institution of higher education and college graduates are often unable to find work.

Education prepares young people for adulthood, improves their economic opportunity and contributes to better health outcomes. Higher participation in education at a national level is associated with lower HIV prevalence among adolescents, fewer teenage births, and later sexual initiation among youth.

Transition from primary to secondary education

Youth (15-24 years) literacy rate (%) 2007-2011


Child marriage is common, yet often underreported, in South and Southeast Asia, where many young women are married by the time they are 18. The percentage of young women who report being married before age 18 ranges from 9 percent in Vietnam to a high of nearly 65 percent in Bangladesh. Despite the fact that the legal age of marriage is at least 18 in most South and Southeast Asian countries, many young people marry earlier.

When girls marry at a young age, they often move from their family home, stop attending school, and go to work, which increases their isolation and decision-making power. Many married adolescents experience domestic and sexual violence. Young women who marry older men also tend to have less power to negotiate safe sex and contraceptive use, which may have important implications for the incidence of abortion and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Percent married by ages 15 and 18

Adolescents currently married / in union (%) 2002-2011


Though rates of early pregnancy vary across South and Southeast Asia, the countries with higher rates of early marriage also are those with the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy. Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in the world.

Girls who become pregnant often drop out of school, are sometimes forced into early marriage, and are likely to earn a lower income over their lifetime. Pregnancy also poses significant risks to young women’s health. Childbirth-related complications are the number one cause of death among girls ages 15–19. Pregnancy during adolescence also increases the risk of anemia, postpartum hemorrhage, prolonged obstructed labor, obstetric fistula, malnutrition, and mental health disorders, including depression. Furthermore, neonatal mortality rates are higher among mothers younger than 20 years old.

Births by age 18 (%) 2007-2011

HIV Status

HIV transmission in most South and Southeast Asian countries is thought to be fueled by high-risk behaviors, with the highest HIV prevalence among young key populations: sex workers, injecting drug users, and men who have sex with men. Data suggest that the rates of drug use among young people are rising and that young people are engaging in high-risk behaviors at an early age.

Overall, young women are more vulnerable to HIV than their male peers. Biological factors, as well as a host of social factors—including cross-generational sex, transactional sex, gender-based violence, and limited ability to negotiate safer sex—increase girls’ vulnerability. Decreasing age of sexual initiation and increasing rates of multiple and concurrent partnerships are also major drivers of the HIV epidemic among youth.

HIV prevalence among young people