Pakistan ranks 151st among 156 countries.
Pakistan is challenged by gender inequality in various socio-cultural, political, economic and educational aspects. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, it ranks 151st among 156 countries. Significantly the recent ranking shows a regression since the 2017 report when it was rated 143rd out of 156.
Socially, men are frequently favoured in terms of educational, financial opportunities and in inheritance of property. Women, particularly in rural setups, often marry early. They are deprived of secondary education, and as a consequence, their economic and social independence is compromised.
Many girls face nutritional discrimination in their childhood. Early marriage increases the likelihood of more pregnancies. More pregnancies are associated with a greater risk of death. Moreover, some women lack decision-making authority when it comes to their health and rely on accompanying male relatives.
Greater tolerance for gender-based violence is associated with decreased healthcare services use amongst females. This affects not only physical but also psychiatric and psychological well-being of women.
Women experience a ‘gender pain gap’, which means that women’s complaints are invalidated and their pain is frequently underestimated by medical staff.
The gender bias informs the healthcare system. Many women have reported a ‘gender pain gap’, which means that their complaints are invalidated and their pain is underestimated by medical staff.
Maternal healthcare is underfunded, understaffed and inaccessible in far-flung communities. Home births increase the risk for complications for both mother and child. According to Pakistan Maternal Mortality Survey (PMMS), the Maternal Morbidity Ratio (MMR) is 186 deaths per 100,000 live births. The MMR is an indicator of overall health for a community.
Research has shown that women have welcomed the lady healthcare workers. The Pakistan Integrated Household Survey of 1995–6 reported that a third of the 134 rural health facilities had no female workers. Moreover, only 23 percent of female medical graduates actually practice medicine. This creates a huge vacancy in the medical workforce. Gender-based access constraints and hesitancy to consult doctors of the opposite sex too contribute to poor healthcare.
According to health care experts priority should be given to family planning, maternal and mother-child health services. More LHW should be recruited to promote health service uptake. Basic necessities such as nutrition must be ensured to promote good health. It is critical that the government and administrative bodies have a good understanding of socio-economic causes of gender disparity. Experts advocate a more gender sensitive healthcare system so that more women may feel at ease when receiving medical attention.
The writer is pursuing a medical science degree at the CMH Lahore Medical College