In Asia in general women health lags behind and needs a lot of improvement. Pakistan is no exception here. In fact Pakistan is quite backward when it comes to the health of women and girl children. The mortality rate for pregnant women is about one in every 38 and IMR (infant mortality rate) is 101 for every 1000 births which is alarmingly high. This is about 60% and 36% more than most underdeveloped countries.
The Factors That Contribute To The Poor Health Condition Of Women
- Patriarchal Society – Women have little or no say in the sexual life. The man of the house (husband) usually decides whether or not contraceptives maybe used and in most cases it not conceivable that a woman asks her husband for a condom or birth control pills or attempts to buy these. Sex is a taboo subject in Pakistan and good women are not supposed to talk about it in private or in public.
- Early marriages – the dowry system which prevails in Pakistan (as in most of the Asian countries) prompts the parents to marry their daughters at a tender age because (i) it costs less when they are young and (ii) it would mean less expenses in her maintenance.
- High fertility – on an average there may be about 5.3 births per woman which is very high. Since women do not have much say in sex and contraceptives, it is difficult for them to protect themselves for frequent pregnancies, which most often contribute to their sickness and even death. Only about 20% of the women have professional assistance during delivery which is also a factor of high infant mortality rate.
- HIV and AIDS risk – since there is no way to say ‘no’ to sex in conjugal life the women are open to being infected by HIV and AIDS virus if and when the husbands are promiscuous. There is an appalling lack of awareness among women about sex and its connection to AIDS/ HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Abortions – many women (married and unmarried) have abortions which are done in unhygienic conditions by persons who are not fully qualified to do so. The result is a number of complications and even death.
- Poor nutrition – the woman’s role in the household is to support the male – he may be her husband, son, father or brother. The woman would most often ensure that all the best food and nutrients is made available to the males, while she would subsist on whatever remains.
There are major efforts by the Government and NGOs to improve the condition of women in Pakistan. However, the religious implications make it very difficult for the woman to gain adequate knowledge on sex and sex related problems which forms the major part of her problems. Awareness building as well as availability of basic medical facilities to women is some of the burning issues in Pakistan.