What behind Pakistan’s family planning stigma and why it’s harming women

**What’s behind Pakistan’s family planning stigma and why it’s harming women**

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The stigma surrounding family planning in Pakistan is deeply rooted in cultural and religious beliefs, and it is having a devastating impact on women’s health and well-being.

Despite the fact that Pakistan has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, with an average of 3.6 children per woman, there is a widespread reluctance to use contraception. This is due in part to the belief that it is against Islam, as well as to the fear of side effects and the disapproval of family and community members.

As a result, many Pakistani women are forced to have more children than they want or are able to care for. This can lead to a number of health problems, including anemia, malnutrition, and postpartum hemorrhage. It can also contribute to poverty and social exclusion.

The government of Pakistan has made some efforts to address the issue of family planning stigma, but more needs to be done. Public education campaigns are needed to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding contraception and to promote its benefits. Religious leaders need to be engaged to help change attitudes towards family planning and to provide guidance to their followers.

In the meantime, women’s rights activists are working to provide women with the information and support they need to make informed decisions about their reproductive health. They are also working to challenge the stigma surrounding family planning and to create a more supportive environment for women who choose to use contraception.

**The impact of family planning stigma on women’s health**

The stigma surrounding family planning in Pakistan has a number of negative consequences for women’s health.

* **Unwanted pregnancies:** The stigma surrounding family planning makes it difficult for women to access contraception, which can lead to unwanted pregnancies. Unwanted pregnancies can have a number of negative consequences for women’s health, including:
* **Maternal mortality:** Unwanted pregnancies are a major cause of maternal mortality in Pakistan. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 18,000 women die each year in Pakistan due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth.
* **Morbidity:** Unwanted pregnancies can also lead to a number of morbidities, including anemia, malnutrition, and postpartum hemorrhage.
* **Social and economic consequences:** Unwanted pregnancies can also have a number of social and economic consequences, including poverty and social exclusion.
* **Unsafe abortions:** The stigma surrounding family planning also makes it difficult for women to access safe abortions. Unsafe abortions are a major cause of maternal mortality in Pakistan. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 2,000 women die each year in Pakistan due to complications from unsafe abortions.

**The role of religious leaders in changing attitudes towards family planning**

Religious leaders play an important role in shaping attitudes towards family planning in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis believe that it is against Islam to use contraception. This belief is based on a number of misconceptions, including the belief that contraception is a form of abortion and that it is harmful to women’s health.

Religious leaders can help to change attitudes towards family planning by dispelling these misconceptions and by providing guidance to their followers on the importance of family planning. They can also help to create a more supportive environment for women who choose to use contraception.

**The work of women’s rights activists**

Women’s rights activists are working to challenge the stigma surrounding family planning and to create a more supportive environment for women who choose to use contraception. They are doing this through a number of activities, including:

* **Public education campaigns:** Women’s rights activists are conducting public education campaigns to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding contraception and to promote its benefits.
* **Training for health care providers:** Women’s rights activists are training health care providers on how to provide family planning services in a sensitive and non-judgmental manner.
* **Legal advocacy:** Women’s rights activists are working to change laws and policies that restrict access to family planning services.
* **Support for women:** Women’s rights activists are providing support to women who choose to use contraception. This includes providing information, counseling, and referrals to health care providers.

The work of women’s rights activists is making a difference. The stigma surrounding family planning is slowly starting to change, and more women are accessing contraception. However, there is still much work to be done. The government of Pakistan needs to do more to address the issue of family planning stigma, and religious leaders need to play a more active role in changing attitudes towards family planning.

**Conclusion**

The stigma surrounding family planning in Pakistan is a major barrier to women’s health and well-being. It is important to address this issue through public education campaigns, training for health care providers, legal advocacy, and support for women. The work of women’s rights activists is making a difference, but more needs to be done to create a more supportive environment for women who choose to use contraception..

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