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Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2009-11-25

Violence against women in Pakistan

November 25th marks the 10th anniversary of the UN's Day to eliminate violence against women. In Pakistan, some 70% of women claim to have experienced physical or sexual violence from men. Today’s Focus takes a closer look at this worrying trend.

Marking the UN’s day to highlight the plight of abused women around the world and to spearhead the fight against it, today’s Focus examines Pakistan. Not only have 70% of women experienced physical or sexual violence from men, but one woman dies every 30 minutes in Pakistan giving birth or from pregnancy complications. As part of our special programme, Christopher Allbitton examines the truth behind this shocking statistic.

Marvi's Story

It should have been the happiest day of her life. Four months ago, Marvi gave birth to a baby boy in her village in Sindh province in southern Pakistan. But for this young woman of barely 20-years old, it was the beginning of a nightmare: she says, "Several times I thought it would have been better if I had died in childbirth”.

Like 80% of Pakistani women, Marvi gave birth at home without any medical assistance. There were complications during the delivery and she was subjected to an improvised caesarean that ultimately resulted in her becoming incontinent. Due to this affliction, she was considered impure and Marvi was chased away by her husband and his family. This is unfortunately a common scenario in a country where women are of little value or importance to those from a poor or traditional background.

Marvi finally managed to get surgery in a public hospital in Hyderabad, the second largest city in Sindh. The surgery was a success and she can now get back to living her life, but many women are not so lucky: in Pakistan, 30,000 women die annually during pregnancy, or as a result of childbirth.

"In our country, women are treated like animals," explains Dr. Shershah Syed. A Pakistani doctor who trained in Ireland, Dr Syed now heads up the gynecology department at Orangi public hospital in a deprived neighborhood of Karachi. Dr Syed has been fighting for years to change attitudes towards the role of women in Pakistani society, and to obtain more resources so he can treat his patients with dignity.




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