Women’s Empowerment and Reproductive Choices

Publication Year : 1995

The 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (lCPD) in their Programme of Action calls for promoting gender equality and equity and the empowerment of women. Furthermore, the conference also recognises the basic rights of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, as well as the right to the information and the means to do so [Sadik (1994)]. The need for such a programme of action arose in view of the fact that in many countries, including Pakistan, women are generally least empowered and hence they have negligible rights to decide about the number of their children. According to the 1990-91 Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, over 54 percent women either wanted to stop having children or wanted to wait at least two years before having another child [Ali and Rukanuddin (1992)]. However, in practice, all of these women were not protected; instead, only 12 percent were practising contraception [Shah and Ali (1992)]. The low incidence of family planning practice on the part of the women is not so much due to the dearth of family planning services; rather it is due to resistance by husbands, in-laws, and other peer pressures. Demographers like Caldwell (1982) and Cain et al. (1979) also contend that in patriarchal societies it is the patriarchy which militates against the fertility decline.