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Women: the largest minority!

THE report in Dawn Metropolitan on March 9, ‘Struggle against patriarchal society to continueÂ’, by Sumera S. Naqvi begins with the statement : “Women, who constitute more than 50 per cent of Pakistan’s population…”
It was bad enough for the under-signed to hear two prime ministers (not including the present PM) in the recent past incorrectly refer to women as being “51 per cent of the population”.
However, to see the same error being made in a report about the observance of International Women’s Day, and that too by a woman reporter, is even more disturbing!
The previous census of Pakistan whose data is available at www.statpak.gov.pk states that the population, as per the 2001 census, was that males numbered 68,769,178 (about 68.7 million) and females numbered 64,882,943 (about 64.8 million).
Thus, it is the male population which is about 51 per cent, and not the female population.
Even if we allow for under-enumeration of women during the census, the fact is that due to several reasons, we suffer from an adverse gender ratio.
These reasons include a widespread bias amongst a large number of people against female children resulting in abortions of female foetuses (thanks to ultrasound); foeticide committed soon after birth and burial of the tiny corpse in an unmarked grave; malnutrition from discriminatory preference of food for the male child instead of equal share for the female child; comparatively high female infant mortality; critically delayed access of women to preventive and curative healthcare leading to loss of life as also high maternal mortality rates; murders and slaughters due to barbaric practices such as karo-kari and possibly some other factors.
As per the electoral rolls for the 2008 elections, the number of male voters over 18 years of age was 45,304,688 (about 45.3 million) and the number of female voters was 35,606,360 (about 35.6 million).
In the case of voters, under-registration of female voters is certainly one factor for the disparity. Through voluntary work by public service organisations in all four provinces with other NGOs prior to the 2008 elections, tens of thousands of female voters in remote areas and some urban areas were registered for the first time – and not just those females who had recently turned 18.
Adverse gender ratios also occur in regions in India, China and in some other countries.
For us in Pakistan it is vitally important that political leadership, civil society and the media ensure that their references to relevant data are precise and accurate because if women are described as the largest disadvantaged minority in our nation, they may begin to receive more justice than they at present do!
JAVED JABBAR Karachi
Source: Dawn
Date:3/12/2009

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