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Socio-cultural, religious, and political aspects of the status of women in Pakistan.

An overview of socio-cultural, religious, and political background of Pakistani women is presented in this paper. Some social indicators, such as education of women, employment of women, participation in domestic and child related decisions, mobility of women, religion and family planning family planning

Use of measures designed to regulate the number and spacing of children within a family, largely to curb population growth and ensure each family’s access to limited resources.
, communication about family planning, initiation of idea of decision-making about family planning and use of contraception have been examined from Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning Survey (1996-97) to see the current status of women. Literature reveals that male dominance Male dominance, or maledom, generally refers to heterosexual BDSM activities where the dominant partner is male, and the submissive partner is female. However, the term is sometimes used to refer to homosexual BDSM activities, where both partners are male and one is dominant.  and prevailing traditional Islamic and cultural restrictions on women are major factors affecting the status of women in Pakistan The status of women in Pakistan varies considerably across classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and capitalist social formations on women's lives. . Data presented in this paper show that there is a little improvement in the social indicators of status of women with special reference to their decisions about household matters, interpersonal discussions and use of family planning methods.


This paper gives an overview of socio-cultural, religious and political background of Pakistani society and examines the current status of women utilising data from Pakistan Fertility and Family planning Survey 1996-97. The low status of women is one of the many factors in Pakistani society, which interfere with the achievement of development goals. The success of family planning intervention also mainly depends upon the cooperation and involvement of women. The traditional social structures and norms that limit women's roles may limit their ability to contribute in efforts to control population growth. Some indicators, such as education of women, employment of women, women's participation in domestic and child related decisions, women's mobility, communication about family planning, religion and family planning, have been examined from Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning Survey (1996-97) [For detail of PFFPS, see Hakim et al. (1998)]. Data reveal that there is a little improvement in the social indicators of status of women in Pakistan, however, it is still very low which inhibit their participation in education and in the labour force as well as encouraging their high fertility. Maintenance of traditional Islamic and cultural restrictions on women may also conflict with the achievement of development goals in family planning. Hence an examination is required of Islamic teachings and customary laws affecting the status of women in Pakistani society and the family which ultimately restrict women from adopting family planning measures.


The overwhelming majority of the population of Pakistan are rural residents and village oriented. Pakistani society is composed of four major ethnic and language groups--Balochi, Pathan, Sindhi and Punjabi living in four different provinces. In recent years, migrants from India, mostly settled in large cities of Sindh (Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur) are also representing themselves as a separate ethnic group known as muhajirs (migrants). They are playing a major role in provincial and federal politics and in the formation of governments. The dominant racial type in Pakistan is Indo-Aryan. The Balochs and Pathans is predominantly an admixture of Turks and Iranians, two of the important branches of the Aryans. They are more akin culturally to those found in the Middle East. Even in urban areas of Punjab and Sindh such as Lahore and Karachi, the influence of Pathans and Balochs has altered the South Asian complexion complexion /com·plex·ion/ (kom-plek´shun) the color and appearance of the skin of the face.

The natural color, texture, and appearance of the skin, especially of the face.
 of these cities [LaPorte (1985), p. 8].

The women of different regions of Pakistan speak different languages. Baluchi is spoken in most parts of Balochistan; Pashto is spoken in North West Frontier Province (NWFP NWFP North-West Frontier Province (northwest Pakistan)
NWFP Northwest Forest Plan
NWFP Non-Wood Forest Product
) and some parts of Balochistan; Punjabi is spoken in Punjab; and Sindhi is spoken in the province of Sindh. Urdu, the mother tongue of only a small minority, mainly migrants from the urdu-speaking areas of India during 1947 and thereafter, is understood and spoken by a great majority of the people of Pakistan. It is also the national language of Pakistan and is the common linguistic link between the people of various provinces.

The most powerful factor common to the women of Pakistan, however, is neither race nor language, but the common heritage of their Islamic religion [Johnson (1964), p. 7]. Islam has been the source of fundamental values of life, which has moulded some of the basic cultural traditions of Muslims. These traditions include beliefs, sanctions, institutions, and ceremonials [Baluch (1965), p. 177]. The social and political role of religion in Pakistan A census held by the Pakistan International Bureau indicates that over 96% of the population of Pakistan are Muslims. There are small non-Muslim religious groups: Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Bahá'ís and others 3%.  is of an importance unique among modern states. The religion of Islam provided the basis for the creation of the country itself when the British colonial rulers left the Indian sub-continent in 1947. Pakistan was established so that Muslims could ordain ORDAIN. To ordain is to make an ordinance, to enact a law.
     2. In the constitution of the United States, the preamble. declares that the people "do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.
 their lives freely on the tenets of Islam [Ahmad (1982), p. 321]. As such, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 Wilber (1964), p. 1. Islam has a far more pervasive influence in most aspects of life in Pakistan than in "most other countries. It influences diet, marriage customs, education and the celebration of festivals and holidays and is an important consideration in implementing various policies.


In Pakistan the extended family is the basic functional unit. Such a family might include the dominant male (usually but not always the eldest) and his wife or wives; his brothers and their wives; his married sons and nephews and their wives; his married sons, daughters, nephews and nieces and, on occasions, other more distant relatives, sometimes in, the role of domestic servants. For most Pakistanis, the family is the only source of security. It is the fundamental social and economic unit.

The eldest male of the family occupies a position of paramount authority. Males are considered superior. The family patriarch patriarch, in the Bible
patriarch (pā`trēärk), in biblical tradition, one of the antediluvian progenitors of the race as given in Genesis (e.g., Seth) or one of the ancestors of the Jews (e.g.
 directs the affairs of the family, protects its interests, and exacts complete obedience from its members as religious and ethical obligation [Nyrop et al. (1971), p. 108]. Within the family, a son is conditioned to be dominant, and protective of the family interests and its good name. His training exacts unqualified obedience in childhood, respect for elders and religious leaders, and sensitivity to concepts of honour, which may, and frequently do, lead to aggressive behaviour. Wilber (1964), p. 5 argues that a person brought up under this rather rigid system with its overtones of authoritarianism generally lacks any training in responsibility. In adult life this early pattern contributes to acceptance of authority to the detriment of individual initiative and belief in the effectiveness of collective efforts. A son is regarded as permanent part of the family and an asset who will reinforce the family power and status.

A daughter, on the other hand, is not regarded as an asset, although she may be fondly treated. The family is highly conscious that 'a female belongs to another (her future husband)', and is therefore a temporary visitor in the house [Ahmed (1986), p. 33]. A wife is always expected to submit to her husband's authority. When the couple lives with the husband's parents, as is often the case, the woman is under the control of the most senior woman for the household. Until she has borne a child, the newcomer has no real acceptance in the family because her participation in the family is through her children [ESCAP ESCAP Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
ESCAP European Society for Child and Adolescent Psychology
 (1987), p. 52]. A childless wife may suffer the disgrace of having her husband take a second wife in few years, and a wife who bears only daughters faces the same possibility. The husband is traditionally less concerned with the social companionship companionship

the faculty possessed by most truly domesticated animals. They are social creatures and have a great need for the companionship of other animals. Animals in groups are quieter and more productive as a rule.
 of his wife than with her ability to bear him sons and carry on the family name. The birth of sons ensures her position in the family [Nyrop et al. (1971), p. 111].

In Pakistan, which is a part of the Indian subcontinent sub·con·ti·nent  
1. A large landmass, such as India, that is part of a continent but is considered either geographically or politically as an independent entity.

, Islamic culture has neither lost its identity nor conquered completely the region culturally; both Islamic and local cultures appropriated something from each other [Singhal (1972), p. 11-12]. As such the culture and traditions of the Pakistani people are a blend of continued adherence to Hindu values and customs by a majority of the converts to Islam in the region, on the one hand, and the values and traditions of Islam brought by migrants and conquerors on the other hand [Ikramullah (1963), p. 160]. Due to overt similarities and consistencies, the practices of the seclusion seclusion Forensic psychiatry A strategy for managing disturbed and violent Pts in psychiatric units, which consists of supervised confinement of a Pt to a room–ie, involuntary isolation, to protect others from harm  of women (Purdah purdah

Seclusion of women from public observation by means of concealing clothing (including the veil) and walled enclosures as well as screens and curtains within the home.
) as status symbols and their exclusion from male-oriented work (which also is prominent among Hindus) remained intact and have been blended with the Islamic traditions of honouring and segregating women. However, orthodoxy in Pakistan usually invokes religious injunctions rather than cultural norms to affect the status of women.


The status of women in each society is a complex phenomenon. Despite increased attention to the concept of female status in demography demography (dĭmŏg`rəfē), science of human population. Demography represents a fundamental approach to the understanding of human society. , the meaning of this concept has remained unclear [Mason (1986), p. 5]. To denote the status of women, various scholars have used different concepts in literature such as female autonomy by Dyson and Moore (1983), patriarchy patriarchy: see matriarchy.  by Cain et al. (1979), women's rights The effort to secure equal rights for women and to remove gender discrimination from laws, institutions, and behavioral patterns.

The women's rights movement began in the nineteenth century with the demand by some women reformers for the right to vote, known as suffrage, and
 by Dixon (1975) and men's situational advantage by Caldwell (1981). The aspects of female status and roles that are of interest to social policy makers are the ability of women to plan their reproductive behaviour reproductive behaviour

In animals, any activity directed toward perpetuation of a species. Sexual reproduction, the most common mode, occurs when a female's egg is fertilized by a male's sperm.
 and their capacity to limit their fertility to a desired number of children [Syed (1978), p. 409].

On the basis of discussions by Oppong (1980) and Dixon (1978), Shah (1986) defines the term "status" in the Pakistani context to denote, first, an access to resources such as education, gainful gain·ful  
Providing a gain; profitable: gainful employment.

gainful·ly adv.
 employment, and health services health services Managed care The benefits covered under a health contract  and, second, the position (power, prestige, authority that a woman has in various situations. The term "role" refers to the various activities that a woman performs in relation to her status in a given situation. Since many forces determine the overall status of women in a society, a woman's status cannot be defined by a single indicator but has to be viewed as a combination of multiple types of status, some of which are high while others are low [Shah (1986), p. 5].

Syed (1978) and Sathar et al. (1988) used conventional measures of education and employment of women to denote their status. An historical appreciation of the current role and status of Pakistani women is possible only when their lives are analysed in their entirety, including such aspects as their cultural values in the family, community, and nation, as well as their demographic and economic roles. Furthermore, it is essential to understand the religious and legal prescriptions and rules relating to relating to relate prepconcernant

relating to relate prepbezüglich +gen, mit Bezug auf +acc 
 the status of women [Shah (1986), p. 2].

The limitations on women can be divided into two broad categories. The first category is that of legal restrictions and inequalities interpreted from the Quran (the holy book of Muslims), Hadith hadith (hädēth`), a tradition or the collection of the traditions of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, including his sayings and deeds, and his tacit approval of what was said or done in his presence.  (the sayings of Prophet Muhammad), Sunnah (the Acts of Prophet Muhammad) and traditional Shariah laws (laws based on the Quran, Hadith and Sunnah derived by Muslim jurists The following lists are of prominent jurists, including judges, listed in alphabetical order by jurisdiction. See also list of lawyers. Antiquity
  • Hammurabi
  • Solomon
  • Manu
  • Chanakya
). These include inequality in inheritance, marriage, divorce, child custody The care, control, and maintenance of a child, which a court may award to one of the parents following a Divorce or separation proceeding.

Under most circumstances, state laws provide that biological parents make all decisions that are involved in rearing their
 and ability to serve as a legal witness. The second category of restrictions is those associated with the enforcement of purdah (seclusion and hiding of women from men) or seclusion of women. Both types of restrictions curtail women's participation in educational, economic and social activities. In many areas, there are additional restrictions based on local customs rather than religious sanctions.


Islam regulates all aspects of life. As the family is believed to be the centre of the Islamic social order, its regulations are quite explicit about the role and place of women in society. Originally, the intent of these laws was to improve the position of women, because before Islam, under tribal law in Arabia, women had virtually no legal status. Various provisions of Islamic teachings improved the situation; however, subsequently provisions of Islamic teachings were interpreted in the context of the existing traditions and customs of a given society, emphasising women's primary role in the family, within which they had both rights and duties [Callaway and Creevey (1989), p. 86].

Islam does not have an ecclesiastical system for training religious leaders, and three distinct types of religious authority can be identified in Pakistan. These are the local maulvi (local religious leaders/preachers), the maulana or ulema (learned scholars in Islamic teachings) and the pir (spiritual leaders). They operate through their mosques (Islamic place of worship Noun 1. place of worship - any building where congregations gather for prayer
house of God, house of prayer, house of worship

bethel - a house of worship (especially one for sailors)
), political organisations or groups of followers in the provinces. The local maulvi are conservative and have a limited knowledge of theology, and any social changes that reflect a bias towards western culture are thought by them as "immoral, materialistic ma·te·ri·al·ism  
1. Philosophy The theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena.

 or unspiritual". Their strongholds are the mosques and their personal influence extends into many aspects of their local community life such as solemnising marriages and teaching the Quran.

The religious ideas of Maulana Maududi, a religious scholar and ulema, dominate the thinking of many people in Pakistan, particularly those who are either members of his political party, the Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Party An Islamic party is a party that works for promoting Islam while an Islamic political party is a political party that promotes Islam as a political movement by offering nominees for election in a democracy - of which there are several in the Islamic world. ), or sympathetic to its aims [Shah (1986c), p. 24]. His ideas for an Islamic government have spread well beyond the borders of Pakistan [Baxter (1985), p. 2]. He and his right-wing political party consistently hold that a truly Islamic society The term Islamic Society has several different meanings:
  • Mosque, or Islamic Center - the place of Muslim prayer.
  • - mosque category.
  • - of various types.
  • Islamic Society of North America - one of the largest American Muslim organizations.
 is based on complete segregation of the sexes and the subordination of women to men. Hence, his party and other likeminded persons have advocated the inferior status and complete segregation of women, who should preferably be confined to their homes, but otherwise heavily veiled from head to foot, and the total exclusion of women from any decision-making bodies or processes [Mumtaz and Shaheed Noun 1. shaheed - Arabic term for holy martyrs; applied by Palestinians to suicide bombers
Arabic, Arabic language - the Semitic language of the Arabs; spoken in a variety of dialects

martyr, sufferer - one who suffers for the sake of principle
 (1987), p. 16].

Maulana Maududi believes that man is the active and woman the passive partner in the system of nature, and as such, by virtue of possessing natural qualities of dominance, power and authority, man is superior [Maududi (1987), p. 134].

Hussain (1987), a writer from Pakistan (a retired judge of the High Court of Pakistan), has written an extensive commentary on the status of women in Islam by examining its different social and economic aspects. To Hussain (1987), p. 11, reduction of the status of women by the religious scholars is a proof of a double standard for modesty and chastity Chastity
See also Modesty, Purity, Virginity.

Agnes, St.

virgin saint and martyr. [Christian Hagiog.: Brewster, 76]


(Rom. Diana) moon goddess; virgin huntress. [Gk. Myth.
, one for men and another for women. The Quran fixed a uniform standard both for men and women by directing them to guard their private parts private parts n. men or women's genitalia, excluding a woman's breasts, usually referred to in prosecutions for "indecent exposure" or production and/or sale of pornography.  and to lower their gaze. Both sexes were required to be free agents in the achievement of the goal of maintaining chastity. But the ulema in the classical age discounted the ability of the woman to guard her chastity, and advocated here segregation from male society. Unobtrusively un·ob·tru·sive  
Not undesirably noticeable or blatant; inconspicuous.

, the woman, through the negative attitude of segregation thrust upon her by the ulema, was made the sentinel sentinel /sen·ti·nel/ (sen´ti-n'l) one who gives a warning or indicates danger.


a recording mechanism, such as an animal, a farm or a veterinarian, posted explicitly to record a possible occurrence or series of
 of male chastity. This is what the present day ulema deduce de·duce  
tr.v. de·duced, de·duc·ing, de·duc·es
1. To reach (a conclusion) by reasoning.

2. To infer from a general principle; reason deductively:
 from the seclusion and veiling of women [Hussain (1987), p. 11].

Qutb, an Egyptian religious scholar, also maintains that Islam, after acknowledging a perfectly equal status as human beings for both men and women, and treating them as equals, entitles them to equal rights. In Islam, a woman has been given equal human status, economic independence, and the right to participate in social life directly. She has the right to be educated and even to work outside the home [Qutb (1980), p. 99].

In fact, according to Fazlur Rahman Fazlur Rahman Malik (Urdu: فضل الرحمان ملک) (September 21, 1919 – July 26, 1988) was a well-known scholar of Islam; M. , religious scholars from Pakistan, in Islamic religion women are supposed to be equal partners with men. Muslim society degenerated in the Middle Ages, and now it is time to check wrong trends [Rehman cited in Maloney (1974), p. 389]. There is no religious restriction on women attaining education or working outside their homes. However, Islamic prescriptions with regard to the rights of women to education, property, and approval of marital partner were neither institutionalised Adj. 1. institutionalised - officially placed in or committed to a specialized institution; "had hopes of rehabilitating the institutionalized juvenile delinquents"

 nor generally granted in Pakistan [Shah (1986), p. 21].


Any attempt to interfere with or to change the Muslim religious laws in matters relating to the family can embarrass embarrass /em·bar·rass/ (em-bar´as) to impede the function of; to obstruct.

To interfere with or impede (a bodily function or part).
 the government, at least in South Asia This article is about the geopolitical region in Asia. For geophysical treatments, see Indian subcontinent.
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia
. For example, during 1985 a judgement by the Indian Supreme Court created a furore. The Supreme Court had confirmed the judgement of the high court awarding Shahbano, a divorced Muslim woman, a maintenance allowance from her husband, and dismissed the husband's appeal against the award of maintenance under section 125 of the 1973 Code of Criminal Procedure, which relates to maintenance of wives, children and parents. The ruling party (Congress-I) had supported the judgement against the wishes of Muslim fundamentalists, and subsequently lost some by elections as a sizeable number of Muslim votes turned against Congress-I. When an independent Muslim member later introduced a bill in the parliament to save Muslim personal law, the ruling party reversed its earlier position and supported the bill to gain the sympathies of the Muslim population [Pathak and Rajan (1989), p. 558].

The attitudes of religious fundamentalists have affected the position of women in Pakistan. However, the views of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, are quite different and can be depicted from the following quotation of his speech:
   It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within
   the four walls of their houses as prisoners. There is no sanction
   anywhere for the deplorable conditions in which our women have to
   live. You should take your women with you as comrades in every
   sphere of life [Jinnah, 1944 cited in Mumtaz and Shaheed (1987), p.

Jinnah advocated an equal share for women with men in social and national life [Qayyum (1970), p. 15].

After the independence of Pakistan, the politicians viewed the ulema as "irritants", uneducated and narrow-minded. The ulema held conventions in 1951 and 1953 at Lahore and passed resolutions presenting the principles of an Islamic State The term Islamic state refers to groups that have adopted Islam as their primary faith. Specifically:
  • A Caliphate in Sunni Islam
  • An Imamah in Shia Islam
  • A Wilayat al-Faqih for the Shia in the absence of an Imamah
, which they insisted, should be incorporated into the constitution of Pakistan There have been several documents known as the Constitution of Pakistan (Urdu: آئین پاکستان ). These will be dealt with here in chronological order. . Maulana Maududi, chief of Jammat-e-Islami, advocated that voting rights Voting rights

The right to vote on matters that are put to a vote of security holders. For example the right to vote for directors.

voting rights

The type of voting and the amount of control held by the owners of a class of stock.
 should be extended to all adult males and only to educated females. He expounded the view the women should not be allowed to take up any public office where they were likely to come in contract with men. Pious and learned males could only hold important public offices, including that of head of state. He recommended a separate assembly of women to advise legislatures on issues relating to women.

While it is true that in the early years of Pakistan (1947-58), the view of orthodox Muslims were looked upon with disdain and irreverence by the political leadership, it is equally true that measures to pacify pac·i·fy  
tr.v. pac·i·fied, pac·i·fy·ing, pac·i·fies
1. To ease the anger or agitation of.

2. To end war, fighting, or violence in; establish peace in.
 them were also taken. For instance, Pakistan was declared an Islamic Republic An Islamic republic, in its modern context, has come to mean several different things, some contradictory to others. Theoretically, to many religious leaders, it is a state under a particular theocratic form of government advocated by some Muslim religious leaders in the Middle  under the 1956 constitution; and ulema were provided with an advisory role in the legislature. However, most of their demands regarding the functioning of an Islamic Republic, such as excluding women from contesting or participating in elections, were ignored by the Constituent Assembly A constituent assembly is a body elected with the purpose of drafting, and in some cases, adopting a constitution. An example is the Russian Constituent Assembly, which was established in Russia in the wake of the October Revolution of 1917, which overthrew the Russian Provisional  [Mumtaz and Shaheed (1987), p. 9].

President Ayub Khan's period (1958-69) was significant for being the period of reversal for the Islamic advocates. Ayub Khan challenged the medieval thinking of the ulema and saw them as divisive and retrogressive ret·ro·gress  
intr.v. ret·ro·gressed, ret·ro·gress·ing, ret·ro·gress·es
1. To return to an earlier, inferior, or less complex condition.

2. To go or move backward.
 elements in society. He promulgated prom·ul·gate  
tr.v. prom·ul·gat·ed, prom·ul·gat·ing, prom·ul·gates
1. To make known (a decree, for example) by public declaration; announce officially. See Synonyms at announce.

 the Family Laws Ordinance 1961. This law ensures compulsory registration of marriages, which minimises fraud and saves innocent women from exploitation [Chaudhry (1980), p. 152]. Under this ordinance, polygamy polygamy: see marriage.

Marriage to more than one spouse at a time. Although the term may also refer to polyandry (marriage to more than one man), it is often used as a synonym for polygyny (marriage to more than one woman), which appears
 was put under severe constraints and a husband could not marry a second time without the prior permission of his current wife.

The 1973 constitution, prepared by the Bhutto regime (1972-77), gave women more rights. Relevant clauses of the 1973 constitution are as follows:

Article 25: (1) All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to the equal protection of law.(2) There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone. (3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any special provision for the protection of the women and children.

Article 27: No citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of race, religion, caste caste [Port., casta=basket], ranked groups based on heredity within rigid systems of social stratification, especially those that constitute Hindu India. Some scholars, in fact, deny that true caste systems are found outside India. , sex, residence or place of birth.

Article 34: Steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all sphere of national life.

Article 35: The state shall protect marriage, the family, the mother and the child.

Article 37: Clause (e): The state shall make provision for securing just and human conditions of work, ensuring that children and women are not employed in vocations unsuited unsuited

1. not appropriate for a particular task or situation: a likeable man unsuited to a military career

 to their age or sex, and maternity benefits for women in employment [Hafeez (1981), 15-16].

Nevertheless, some institutional developments during Zia's period are significant in recognising the adverse position of women. Prior to 1975, the status of women was not an issue. Development plans did not focus on women as a separate group in need of special development programmes [Shah (1989), p. 150]. In January 1979 an important institution--Women's Division'--was established within the cabinet Secretariat The Cabinet Secretariat (jp: 内閣官房; Naikaku-Kambou) is the secretariat of the cabinet of Japan responsible for supporting directly the prime minister and managing general affairs in the cabinet. In 2005, the personnel is numbered 665.  to undertake special projects to meet the special needs of women in the country. This division has now been given the status of Ministry. Another noticeable change in the government's emphasis on women's status was the overt recognition given to the subject in the Sixth Plan 1983-88. Specific targets in the areas of education, employment, mortality, and fertility were set up. The framework for the plan emphasised equality of opportunities. It stated that women's development was a prerequisite for overall national development and that no society could develop 'half liberated and half shackled' [Shah (1989), p. 161].

The period of 1990s has witnessed somewhat more progressive approach towards women participation in education, employment as well as use of family planning measures.


In Pakistan concept of the role of women in society vary [Shah (1989)], but there is consensus that their access to services and opportunities is restricted [UNICEF (1988), p. 69]. The parental or maternal role has always been of a very high priority for Pakistani women. Cultural values prescribe the mother's position as one demanding respect, veneration and obedience from children. Islamic teaching lend full support to these values, resulting in well-known sayings and beliefs such as 'heaven lies under the mother's feet'. Various studies indicate that the maternal role is supreme and that the values related to fertility control have not taken hold in the society as a whole [Shah (1986)]. A woman's assets are calculated only in terms of her power of reproduction [Mumtaz and Shaheed (1987), p. 23]. She strongly feels that her social credibility and status depends on her childbearing role [Manzoor (1991), p. 30-31]. Occupational role is particularly important, mainly because it provides a potential alternative role to the wife-mother role. However in Pakistan the occupational role is not a primary role that women are expected to fulfil. Most women enter the labour force because of financial need and, in most cases, Work participation is prestige reducing rather than prestige enhancing. The individual role includes activities and issues such as pursuit of education, employment, childbearing, decision about the number of children, decision about using family planning methods, mobility, and household decisions. Some of these indicators of women's status are analysed utilising data from Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning Survey, 1996-97 (presented in appendix).


Appendix Table 1 shows the levels of education for ever-married women by province and by urban-rural residence. Data reveal that 54 percent of ever-married women have no education at all. Twenty-one percent have informal or Quranic education, while a quarter have some formal schooling. Only six percent of women have above secondary level education.

Urban rural differentials are striking. In major urban areas only a quarter of women are uneducated, compared with almost two-thirds of women in rural areas.

Employment of Women

The employment of women has important implications for their economic independence. Appendix Table 2a presents the employment status of women. Overall, 20 percent of ever-married women are currently working for money. There is considerable variation in employment between the provinces. Urban rural differences are also evident, and the percentage of currently working women is highest in rural areas. It is likely that women's involvement in the agricultural sector in rural areas has been reported as paid employment.

The least educated are the largest group among women who are currently working. Twenty-four percent of women with no education report working for money compared with only 13 percent of those with up to primary schooling and the same percent of those with up to middle schooling. The percentage increases slightly (19 percent) among the least educated group. Appendix Table 2b shows the distribution of women who work for money according to occupation, employment status, place of work, and retention of money. Among the women who work, nearly one-third is employed in production (29 percent). The service and agricultural sectors are the second most common sources of employment (26 and 27 percent respectively). Sixty-four percent of women work for family members, and 15 percent are self-employed. Almost two-thirds of women work away from their homes. Just under half (41 percent) of women report that they keep all or part of the money that they earn, while more than one third (36 percent) claim that they keep none of the money that they earn. The remainders keep part of their earnings.

Participation in Domestic and Child-Related Decisions

Appendix Table 3 summarises the indicators of women's participation and decision-making in household matters, namely the treatment of a child, buying food for the family and buying their own clothes. It is clear that the vast majority of women participate in decisions about these three key aspects of domestic life. However, only a minority has the final say in decision-making. Such decision-making power increases with age. Women aged 30 years or more are much more likely to report responsibility for taking final decisions than younger women. There is also a provincial difference. Women decision-making power is far greater in Punjab and Sindh than in NWFP or Balochistan. Urbanisation and education both appear to enhance women's autonomy.

Mobility of Women

The norm in Pakistan is that women stay at home and take care of the house and children. Women are not culturally restricted to staying at home, but since most areas are underdeveloped un·der·de·vel·oped
Not adequately or normally developed; immature.
 there is felt to be a lack of personal security and they are advised by their families not to travel alone outside their locality or village. Consequently, women's mobility is limited in Pakistan. In the PFFPS, women's mobility was evaluated in terms of their self-reported ability (a) to go outside the locality or village unaccompanied un·ac·com·pa·nied  
1. Going or acting without companions or a companion: unaccompanied children on a flight.

2. Music Performed or scored without accompaniment.
, and (b) to go to a hospital unaccompanied. Appendix Table 4 shows that women's mobility varies by age, province, urban-rural residence and education. Overall, 18 percent of women report that they have travelled alone outside their locality or village. Women are least mobile in Balochistan where only five percent of women have travelled alone outside their village or locality. Older, urban and educated women are the most able to travel alone outside their immediate locality.

One quarter of women report that they could go to a hospital alone, compared with almost three-quarters who said that they would need to be accompanied.

Religion and Family Planning

Muslims comprise 97 percent of the total population of Pakistan. Some Muslims quote religion as being against family planning. Fatalistic fa·tal·ism  
1. The doctrine that all events are predetermined by fate and are therefore unalterable.

2. Acceptance of the belief that all events are predetermined and inevitable.
 attitudes regarding the number of children is also indirectly considered being religious in origin, and does not support family planning.

Appendix Table 5 show that more than half women report that they have read nothing in Quran or Hadith in favour or against family planning, nine percent report reading in favour of family planning and 32 percent say that they have read something hostile to family planning. Thus more than two-thirds of Muslim women have read nothing against family planning and only one-third have read something categorically against it. Similarly 47 percent of Muslim women report hearing a Moulvi Sahib sa·hib  
Used formerly as a form of respectful address for a European man in colonial India.

[Hindi s
 or Pir Sahib speaking against family planning.

In practice, however, only 10 percent of currently married women never used family planning on religious grounds. In fact there is nothing in Islam specifically against family planning.

Communication about Family Planning

Studies show that discussions of family planning between women and their husbands increases the likelihood of contraceptive use, while talking about family planning with friends, neighbours and relatives is likely to improve acceptance and understanding of family planning. It might also be a measure of the acceptability of family planning, both at the individual and community level. Of women who reported discussing family planning, husbands were the most likely persons they discussed it with. Friends and neighbours was the second most common, followed by other female relatives.

Appendix Table 6 shows that overall, 45 percent of currently married women reported that they had discussed family planning with their husbands in the past year. These include 27 percent who discussed family planning once or twice and 18 percent who discussed it at least three times. These findings show an increase in the level of interspousal discussion since the PDHS PDHS Palm Desert High School (California)
PDHS Palm Desert High School (Palm Desert, CA)
PDHS Palo Duro High School
 1990-91, when approximately one in four currently married women reported that they had discussed family planning with their husbands in the last year.

Levels of inter-spousal discussion vary by age, residence, province and education. As age increases, the level and frequency of inter-spousal discussion also increases. However it begins to decrease in older age groups. Women aged 15-19 years and 45-49 years are least likely to have talked to their husbands about family planning during the last year. Inter-spousal discussions are more frequent among urban women. Women living in NWFP are also more likely to have discussed family planning with their husbands in the last year compared to women from other provinces. Education greatly influences inter-spousal discussion. For example, 69 percent of currently married women with above secondary education discussed family planning compared with 40 percent of those with no education.


About Family Planning

Insight into who initiates the idea of Family Planning and the decision-making process leading to the adoption of family planning is important in order to better understand what influence women to regulate their fertility. Appendix Table 7 presents these data for currently married respondents. At the time of first use of contraception, 54 percent of currently married women used contraception on their own initiative whereas 26 percent used contraception on the suggestion of their husbands. Fifteen percent initiated use of contraception by a joint consensus between husband and wife and 5 percent used contraception because of the influence of other persons. "Other persons" include mainly medical and paramedical par·a·med·i·cal
1. Of, relating to, or being a person trained to give emergency medical treatment or assist medical professionals.


Use of Contraceptives

Appendix Table 8 presents trends in the CPR Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Definition

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a procedure to support and maintain breathing and circulation for a person who has stopped breathing (respiratory arrest) and/or whose heart has stopped (cardiac
 among currently married non-pregnant women. Since the mid-1980s, derived from four national surveys. The data show that between 1990-91 and 1996-97 the percent of currently married non-pregnant women using contraception has doubled from 14 to 28 percent. Use of most methods has increased, indicating positive behaviour of women towards the use of family planning methods. Use of both female methods (particularly sterilisation and IUD IUD Definition

An IUD is an intrauterine device made of plastic and/or copper that is inserted into the womb (uterus) by way of the vaginal canal. One type releases a hormone (progesterone), and is replaced each year.
) and male methods (condom 1. condom - The protective plastic bag that accompanies 3.5-inch microfloppy diskettes. Rarely, also used of (paper) disk envelopes. Unlike the write protect tab, the condom (when left on) not only impedes the practice of SEX but has also been shown to have a high failure  and withdrawal) have increased. However, it is still low compared to several other countries in Asian region.


The Islamic religion is the most powerful homogeneous characteristic of the Pakistani society and has moulded some of the basic cultural traditions of Muslims of Pakistan. The blend of both Hindu customs and Islamic values has affected the position of women in the Pakistani family and society. Male dominance has become an expected norm leading to a woman's secondary role in the decision-making processes. However, religious injunctions are more important and often invoked by orthodoxy to affect the status of women. As a result the inequality interpreted from the religious teaching has ultimately restricted women from openly participating in educational, economic, political and social activities. The religious scholars and local preachers also pressure for such political decisions limiting an active role for women in the family and society.

Data presented from the PFFPS survey show that there is little improvement in the status of women with special reference to their decisions about household matters, inter-spousal discussions and use of family planning methods.

In Pakistan a women is encouraged to perform the role of a good mother and housewife within the four wall of the house rather than to become an educationist, manager or community leader in the active life of the society. Thus socialisation of children, expectations of the family and society, and religious and political restrictions encourage lower status of women and high fertility. Well-organised efforts are required to remove these entrenched en·trench   also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.

Appendix Table 1
Percent Distribution of Ever-married Women according
to Education, By Province and Urban-Rural Residence

                                                Formal Education

                                 Informal or     Up to      Up to
Province/Residence     None        Quranic      Primary    Middle

Punjab                 41.1          31.8         13.0       5.4
Sindh                  58.6          8.8          7.7        4.4
NWFP                   84.5          3.6          7.6        1.6
Balochistan            93.9          0.9          2.1        1.1
Total Urban            32.8          16.6         13.1       10.0
  Major Urban          25.1          12.8         12.2       12.4
  Other Urban          42.2          21.3         14.2       7.1
Rural                  62.8          23.0         9.4        2.0
All Ever-married       53.9          21.1         10.5       4.4
All Currently
  Married Women        53.9          20.9         10.7       4.3
All Formerly
  Married Women        53.9          25.5         5.0        7.0

                     Formal Education

                      Up to         Above         Any
Province/Residence   Secondary     Secondary     Formal     Total

Punjab                  4.8          4.0          27.1      100.0
Sindh                   6.7          13.8         32.6      100.0
NWFP                    1.8          0.8          11.8      100.0
Balochistan             1.4          0.7          5.2       100.0
Total Urban            11.1          16.4         50.6      100.0
  Major Urban          12.4          25.1         62.2      100.0
  Other Urban           9.4          5.8          36.5      100.0
Rural                   1.9          1.0          14.2      100.0
All Ever-married        4.6          5.6          25.1      100.0
All Currently
  Married Women         4.6          5.6          25.2      100.0
All Formerly
  Married Women         4.5          4.2          20.6      100.0

Province/Residence    Number

Punjab                 4581
Sindh                  1749
NWFP                   1136
Balochistan             382
Total Urban            2338
  Major Urban          1282
  Other Urban          1056
Rural                  5510
All Ever-married       7848
All Currently
  Married Women        7584
All Formerly
  Married Women         264

Source: Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning Survey (1996-97).
Table 4.2a.

Appendix Table 2a
Percentage of Ever-married Women Working for Money

Background                  Percentage Working
Characteristics                  for Money        Number

  Punjab                           20.5            4581
  Sindh                            30.0            1749
  NWFP                              5.1            1136
  Balochistan                       6.3             382
  Total Urban                      15.2            2338
  Major Urban                      12.9            1282
  Other Urban                      18.0            1056
  Rural                            21.6            5510
  No Education                     23.9            4228
  Only Informal or Quranic         17.3            1654
  Up to Primary                    12.5             823
  Up to Middle                     13.2             345
  Upto Secondary                   11.4             362
  Secondary +                      19.0             437
All                                19.7            7848

Currently Married Women            19.2            7584
Formerly Married Women             32.8             264
Table 4.4a.

Source: Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning Survey 1996-97.

Appendix Table 2b
Percent Distribution of Women Working for Money according
to Selected Characteristics of Work

Characteristic of Work         Working for Money    Number
  Professional, Technical             9.0             139
  Administrative, Managerial          0.3              5
  Clerical                            0.5              8
  Sales                               1.1             17
  Service                            25.9             399
  Agriculture                        27.4             422
  Production                         29.1             448
  Other                               6.8             105
Employment Status
  Work for Family Member             63.8             984
  Work for Someone Else              20.9             322
  Self-employed                      15.3             236
Place of Work
  Home                               38.6             596
  Away                               61.4             948
Retention of Money
  Keep all the Money                 40.7             629
  Keep some Money                    23.3             360
  Does not Keep any Money            35.9             554
Total                                100.0           1543

Source: Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning Survey 1996-97.
Table 4.4b.

Appendix Table 3
Indicators of Women's Participation in Decision-making

                        Child Health Care               Purchase of Food

Background               Participate in     Have Final   Participate in
Characteristics             Decision           Say          Decision

  Punjab                      94.1             33.3           90.1
  Sindh                       88.9             28.0           80.2
  NWFP                        90.7             14.1           83.8
  Baluchistan                 59.6             6.5            50.0
  Total Urban                 92.3             39.4           87.0
  Major Urban                 93.2             45.5           87.1
  Other Urban                 91.4             31.9           86.9
  Rural                       90.2             23.1           84.2
  None                        87.9             20.8           82.0
  Informal or Quranic         93.4             34.9           89.0
  Up to Primary               93.7             27.8           86.0
  Up to Middle                93.5             42.0           87.9
  Up to Secondary             97.7             40.7           89.9
  Above Secondary             96.5             50.5           91.0
  15-19                       82.1             7.1            72.2
  20-29                       88.4             21.7           82.5
  30-39                       92.6             33.2           88.4
  40-49                       93.7             33.9           89.2
All                           90.8             28.1           85.0

                        Purchase of Food    Purchase of Clothing

Background                 Have Final           in         Have Final
Characteristics                Say           Decision          Say

  Punjab                      36.7             91.1           57.4
  Sindh                       28.7             86.9           46.9
  NWFP                        13.7             87.8           27.5
  Baluchistan                 10.3             61.1           25.9
  Total Urban                 41.8             91.7           65.7
  Major Urban                 50.4             92.2           71.4
  Other Urban                 31.2             91.1           58.7
  Rural                       25.5             86.8           42.3
  None                        23.1             84.7           38.3
  Informal or Quranic         37.3             91.6           55.5
  Up to Primary               33.0             90.7           58.4
  Up to Middle                38.2             91.9           70.7
  Up to Secondary             41.4             96.0           69.2
  Above Secondary             52.8             95.7           79.5
  15-19                        9.9             79.5           23.1
  20-29                       21.5             87.1           44.7
  30-39                       38.5             90.0           55.5
  40-49                       41.4             90.7           56.9
All                           30.3             88.2           49.2

Source: Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning Survey 1996-97.
Table 4.7a.

Appendix Table 4
Indicators of Mobility for Ever-married Women
by Background Characteristics

                     Women who have been
                     Outside the Village      Perceived Ability to Go
                                              to a Hospital

                                                          Would Need
Background             Alone       With an      Alone        to be
Characteristics                     Adult                 Accompanied
  15-19                 4.8         49.8         6.5         92.6
  20-29                 11.7        50.8        15.7         80.7
  30-39                 22.0        47.2        31.6         63.0
  40-49                 29.0        45.3        35.6         59.4
  Punjab                19.4        38.9        29.7         64.9
  Sindh                 19.3        48.6        20.6         76.0
  NWFP                  15.9        76.5        15.6         82.8
  Baluchistan           4.8         79.2         4.7         91.4
  Total Urban           25.1        51.7        35.9         60.0
  Major Urban           30.6        57.3        41.6         54.2
  Other Urban           18.4        44.8        28.9         67.0
  Rural                 15.2        47.1        19.6         76.0
  No Education          14.6        50.4        18.5         78.1
  Only Informal or
    Quranic             20.5        38.3        28.2         65.8
  Up to Primary         18.0        43.7        24.6         69.5
  Up to Middle          24.0        52.2        31.5         64.9
  Up to Secondary       22.4        60.4        35.8         59.1
  Above Secondary       35.8        63.8        51.6         43.6
  All                   18.1        48.4        24.4         71.2

                     Perceived Ability to Go
                     to a Hospital

Background           It Depends     Total
Characteristics                                Number
  15-19                 0.9         100.0        534
  20-29                 3.7         100.0       3078
  30-39                 5.4         100.0       2733
  40-49                 5.0         100.0       1504
  Punjab                5.5         100.0       4581
  Sindh                 3.3         100.0       1749
  NWFP                  1.6         100.0       1136
  Baluchistan           3.8         100.0        382
  Total Urban           4.2         100.0       2338
  Major Urban           4.2         100.0       1282
  Other Urban           4.1         100.0       1056
  Rural                 4.4         100.0       5510
  No Education          3.3         100.0       4228
  Only Informal or
    Quranic             6.0         100.0       1654
  Up to Primary         5.9         100.0        823
  Up to Middle          3.7         100.0        345
  Up to Secondary       5.1         100.0        362
  Above Secondary       4.8         100.0        437
  All                   4.3         100.0       7848

Source: Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning Survey 1996-97.
Table 4.6.

Appendix Table 5
Percent Distribution of Currently Married Muslim Women, According
to Nature of Religious Views on Family Planning, by Source

                     In Favour     Against    in Favour
                     of Family     Family       nor
                      Planning    Planning     Against

Read in Quran or
  Hardith               9.4         32.3        58.3
Heard from "Moulvi
  Sahib" or "Pir
Sahib"                  3.9         46.6        50.9

                                  Number of
                       Total      Muslim Women

Read in Quran or
  Hardith              100.0        7258
Heard from "Moulvi
  Sahib" or "Pir
Sahib"                 100.0        7258

Source: Pakistan Fertility and Family
Planning Survey 1996-97.

Appendix Table 6
Percent Distribution of Currently Married Women according to Frequency
of Interspousal Discussion about Family Planning in the Past Year
by Selected Background Characteristics

                    Family Planning Discussed

Characteristics       Never     Once or Twice    More often
  15-19               69.4           19.5           11.2
  20-24               57.3           28.0           14.7
  25-29               51.0           30.6           18.3
  30-34               49.9           27.5           22.6
  35-39               51.0           28.8           20.3
  40-44               54.7           30.0           15.3
  45-49               70.9           17.4           11.7
  Total Urban         48.7           27.8           23.6
  Major Urban         45.6           28.5           25.9
  Other Urban         52.5           26.9           20.7
  Rural               57.8           27.3           14.9
  Punjab              53.3           30.5           16.2
  Sindh               64.2           24.3           11.5
  NWFP                39.0           25.4           35.6
  Balochistan         83.0           10.8            6.2
  None                59.5           25.1           15.4
  Informal or         59.9           26.8           13.2
    Quranic           47.7           29.9           22.4
  Up to Primary       44.1           33.4           22.5
  Up to Middle        38.5           30.8           30.7
  Up to Secondary     31.1           39.3           29.7
  Above Secondary
All                   55.1           27.4           17.5

                    Family Planning

Characteristics       Total         Number
  15-19               100.0          529
  20-24               100.0          1328
  25-29               100.0          1697
  30-34               100.0          1465
  35-39               100.0          1165
  40-44               100.0          819
  45-49               100.0          581
  Total Urban         100.0          2245
  Major Urban         100.0          1235
  Other Urban         100.0          1009
  Rural               100.0          5339
  Punjab              100.0          4429
  Sindh               100.0          1680
  NWFP                100.0          1102
  Balochistan         100.0          372
  None                100.0          4085
  Informal or         100.0          1587
    Quranic           100.0          810
  Up to Primary       100.0          327
  Up to Middle        100.0          350
  Up to Secondary     100.0          425
  Above Secondary
All                   100.0          7584

Source: Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning
Survey 1996-97.
Table 7.14b.

Appendix Table 7
Percent Distribution of Currently Married Ever-users
according to Person Who Initiated the Idea to Use
Family Planning, by Residence

Initiator of Family      Residence
Planning Use             Total Urban    Major Urban    Other Urban

Respondent                   49.9           48.3          52.5
Husband                      22.6           19.4          27.8
Joint Husband and Wife       23.3           28.3          15.4
Other Person                  4.1            4.0           4.3
Total                       100.0          100.0         100.0
Number                       1199            739           460

Initiator of Family         Rural           All
Planning Use
                             56.9           53.9
Respondent                   28.7           26.0
Husband                       8.9           15.2
Joint Husband and Wife        5.5            4.9
Other Person                100.0          100.0
Total                        1563           2762

Source: Pakistan Fertility and Family
Planning Survey 1996-97.
Table 7.5a.

Appendix Table 8
Method-specific Contraceptive Prevalence of Currently
Married Non-pregnant Women

Contraceptive Method     PCPS 1984-85   PDHS 1990-91

Any Method                   9.1            14.0
Any Modern Method            7.6            10.7
  Pill                       1.4             0.8
  IUD                        0.8             1.5
  Injectables                0.6             0.9
  Implants                   0.0             0.0
  Vaginal Methods            0.1             0.0
  Condom                     2.1             3.2
  Female Sterilisation       2.6             4.2
  Male Sterilisation         0.0             0.0
Any Traditional Method       1.5             3.3
  Rhythm                     0.1             1.5
  Withdrawal                 0.9             1.4
  Other                      0.5             0.4
  Number                      U             5375

Contraceptive Method     PCPS 1994-95   PFFPS 1996-97

Any Method                   20.5           28.2
Any Modern Method            14.5           19.9
  Pill                       0.8             2.0
  IUD                        2.4             4.1
  Injectables                1.2             1.7
  Implants                   0.0             0.0
  Vaginal Methods            0.0             0.1
  Condom                     4.3             5.0
  Female Sterilisation       5.8             7.1
  Male Sterilisation         0.0             0.1
Any Traditional Method       6.0             8.3
  Rhythm                     1.2             2.3
  Withdrawal                 4.9             5.4
  Other                       --             0.6
  Number                     6878           6424

U = Unknown (Figure not Available)

Source: Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning Survey 1996-97.
Table 7.8d.


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Abdul Hakim is Director and Azra Aziz is Fellow at the National Institute of Population Studies, Islamabad.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Reproduced with permission of the Publications Division, Pakistan Institute of Development Economies, Islamabad, Pakistan.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:GENDER ISSUES
Author:Hakim, Abdul; Aziz, Azra
Publication:Pakistan Development Review
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 22, 1998
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