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980,000 unsafe abortions carried out each year, 90% involving married women

Myra Imran

Islamabad: While society refuses to discuss the medical aspects of the issue focusing instead on morality and religion, an estimated 980,000 unsafe abortions are carried out in Pakistan every year, with 90 per cent of them involving married women.

These statistics were revealed in the final report of ‘Pakistan’s Gender Profile Study for 2007-08’, published by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), that further says that this practice leads to one terminated pregnancy out of every six.

In its health section, the report points out that high cost, immobility, restricted decision-making and limited information are the basic hurdles in the way of women seeking appropriate healthcare. It says women take the decision to terminate a pregnancy in order to limit family size or for financial reasons. When doctors, who fear legal repercussions or demand exorbitant fees, refuse to help them, such women resort to untrained staff or unregistered clinics and as a result, often suffer complications.

The report further points out that every year, 250,000 women suffer post-abortion complications at the hands of unskilled purported healthcare providers and 3,000 of these women die.

Pointing towards another interesting finding, the report says that a majority of men oppose the use of contraceptives but agree to abortion.

Regarding mental health, the report says that the incidence of mental illness is much higher in women, ranging from 29 to 66 per cent as compared to 10 to 33 per cent in men. “Women living in rural areas are reported to have higher levels of stress as compared to those living in urban areas.”

The research says that confinement and dependency experienced by housewives, financial difficulties, emotional deprivation, personal tragedy and low esteem are major factors that contribute to women’s mental health problems.

In its section on education, the report says that gender gaps in urban education are almost non-existent but they are wider in rural education since gender disparities exist highly in rural areas. “The poor condition of public schools has a negative effect on the overall enrolment rates with girls, especially those living in rural areas, again being the worst hit.”

In its graphic representation of data, the report shows that the lowest female literacy rate of 22 per cent prevails in Balochistan whereas the highest rate of 48 per cent is among females in Punjab. The report demands more non-traditional courses to be offered for women in vocational and technical institutes.

The research says that in urban areas, the number of male and female teachers is almost the same whereas the gap is wide in rural areas. It reveals that majority of primary school teachers, particularly women, have less than 10 years of schooling, who have often not studied core subjects, such as mathematics and science, and therefore, lack knowledge of the subject matter and are unable to communicate effectively.

The report notices that there is an extreme lack of synchronisation among donor agencies and the government of Pakistan for improving the country’s literacy rate. “In reality, donors have their own agenda, rather most of the donations are experimental and not real contribution to the system.”

Discussing the role of women in economic activities, the research says that the rates of women and men engaged in agriculture, forestry and fisheries in the labour force are 38.4 per cent for men and 69.9 per cent for women. “Due to women’s triple role in society, they usually have greater workloads than their male counterparts.”

It says that major barriers responsible for low female participation rate in overall economic activities include inadequate recognition of their contribution, immobility, ignorance about opportunities and social perception of women as lower status dependents. “The unemployment rate for women is many times higher for every age group; they are the last to get jobs and first to lose them.”
Source: The News

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