Reproductive health

Published May 21, 2024

IT is naïve to imagine that reproductive healthcare counts in Pakistan, where women from low-income groups and rural areas in particular fare poorly as they have limited access to medical facilities and information. The annual report on the State of the World Population 2024, on the theme ‘Interwoven Lives, Threads of Hope: Ending inequalities in sexual and reproductive health and rights’, released by UNFPA recently, throws up shocking truths about Pakistan. Less than one in three women was able to take decisions about her sexual and reproductive health; physically challenged females were up to 10 times more vulnerable to gender-based abuse and “every 50 minutes a woman died due to pregnancy complications”. The forecast is that it will take 93 years to fulfil family planning needs, while the target of zero maternal deaths will be unachievable for 122 years.

These appalling numbers outline the drastic impact patriarchy and prejudice have had on women’s progress by hindering the right to contraceptives, safe birth facilities, maternity care and necessary sexual and reproductive health services. Experts believe that girls and women will be a wasted opportunity for Pakistan’s fiscal health and social framework. The exclusion of sexual and reproductive health from political agendas and educational curricula is seen as a primary reason for this, alongside censorship of sexual health knowledge in a conservative culture. For matters to improve, the media should play a constructive part in birth control programmes and disseminate information regarding family planning and choice. The population authorities must engage female health personnel so that contraceptive use increases in remote communities. The question is: why has the state failed to recognise preventative practices as an integral facet of economic well-being? Family planning is a fundamental human right; its absence erodes resources, adds to healthcare expenditure and results in high infant mortality rates.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

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