That women in Pakistan are given less importance is of no surprise. Prime Minister Imran Khan in his maiden speech too overlooked this segment that makes half of the country’s population. But ignoring them comes at a cost that is becoming increasingly hard to ignore.
Pakistan is currently the sixth-most populous country in the world, which has given rise to a number of issues. If things persist owing to poor efforts by the authorities in the field of family planning, the country is most likely to become the fourth-most populous nation. And at the crux of this issue lies the lack of development and opportunities given to women in the country.
At a panel discussion regarding family planning in the country organised by the Dow University of Health Sciences, experts voiced their concerns of women being deprived of the decision-making power relating to their own bodies. While open discourse on family planning is still a taboo among many households, whatever decisions that are made are often between the husband and his mother. Women’s lack of education also acts as a hurdle to them wanting a say.
Another factor adding to Pakistan’s surging population is teenage pregnancies, courtesy early marriages. While the country’s laws prohibit marriages below the age of 18, its lack of implementation that gives way to a whopping 80pc rate of teenage pregnancies. Besides, low-quality services and unavailability of stock of contraceptives lead to poor family planning.
The population threat Pakistan currently faces can only be tackled if the government measures are set in the right direction, taking into account all stakeholders, including clerics who can help clear the myths surrounding family planning. And while people — men and women –need to be equipped with proper education and awareness, there is a growing need to install women in power-holding positions and the country’s core committees to be able to make more apt decisions surrounding their own gender.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2018.