Women in Pakistan ostracized because of obstetric fistula
Reports reveal that physical consequences of obstetric fistula is leading to a severe socio cultural stigmatization of Pakistani women. Since the majority of the population (60% as per Pakistani daily, The Nation) is uneducated they look at this medical condition as a divine punishment or a curse for disloyal or “sexual misconduct.”
Pakistani women who are unable to produce children as “assets” for their families are facing severe ostracism. This is a big deal
because achieving a sense of social belonging is a fundamental psychological need. This rejection further reduces self-esteem, sense of control, and a sense of having a meaningful existence for these women.
Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences (LUMHS) Obstetrics and
Gynecology Department Chairperson Prof Dr. Roshan Ara Kazi reveals
that over 5000 cases of obstetric fistula occur each year in Pakistan. She further adds, that most of these women are socially outcast-ed; they are not allowed to sit with the family, attend family gatherings and are thrown out of public transport while
traveling. These patients are disliked by their husbands leading to marital disharmony and divorce. Because this condition is seen as that of shame and embarrassment, most women in Pakistan hide themselves and suffer in silence. Unfortunately divorce rates
for women who are suffering from an obstetric fistula range from 50% to as high as 89% in Pakistan.
These marginalized members of society, are forced to live on the outskirts of their villages and towns, often living in isolation where usually die from starvation
or an infection in the birth canal. The unavoidable odor is viewed as offensive, thus their removal from society is seen as essential. Accounts of women who suffer obstetric fistula proclaim that their lives have been reduced to the leaking of urine, feces,
and blood because they are no longer capable or allowed to participate in traditional activities, including the duties of wife and mother. This forced upon loneliness and shame then leads to clinical depression and suicidal tendency. In certain cases, women
have been forced to turn to commercial sex work as a means of survival because of the extreme poverty and social isolation.
Figures vary – 3500 patients reported by Agha Khan Hospital over 5000 patients reported by Koohi Goth hospital
Changing the regressive mindset of rural Pakistan will help prevent obstetric fistula
Medical professionals say, young women, whose bodies have not yet matured enough to endure the birthing process, as well as those who lack adequate nutrition or live too far away from modern healthcare facilities,
are suffering from obstetric fistula.
But is changing the mindset that sees nothing wrong with the idea of a child bride is that easy?
In developing Muslim countries, women who are affected by obstetric fistula do not necessarily have full agency over their bodies or their households.
Rather, their husbands and other male family members have control in determining the health care that the women receive. For example, a woman’s family may refuse medical examinations for the patient by male doctors, but female doctors may be unavailable,
thus barring women from prenatal care. Furthermore, many societies believe that women are supposed to suffer in childbirth, thus are less inclined to support maternal health efforts.
“It is a shame that we boast
of our nuclear strength, but our women are still dying in labor,” said Dr. Sher Shah Syed who set up Koohi Goth hospital in Karachi, Pakistan’s only primary healthcare facility that offers treatment for fistula.
is a poor person’s disease, and who cares about the poor in this country?”
No govt hospitals to treat obstetric fistula in Pakistan
Another local practitioner, Dr. Raza Murad hesitantly speaks up “In our culture, when a girl first begins to menstruate, her parents are obliged to marry her off. Nobody knows
that the Sindh provincial assembly passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act, prohibiting the marriage of children under 18 years of age. Sheepishly he adds “In a lawless country like ours where politicians are busy bickering & looting taxpayers how
can we expect decent medical facilities.”
Obstetric fistula a violation of Pakistani women’s fundamental rights to dignity