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Pakistan ranked third most dangerous country for women

A recent poll conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked Pakistan as the world’s third most dangerous country in which to be a woman, with only Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo thought to be more dangerous.

For the poll, over 200 social experts were asked to rank countries for the risks faced by women, from health threats to sexual violence, trafficking and other societal problems such as discrimination or lack of access to resources.

In Pakistan, women routinely face dangers to their health, particularly since malnutrition is common. And with poor maternal healthcare services and a lack of medical centres, 65 per cent of women in Pakistan give birth at home, many suffering debilitating complications. 14,000 women die each year in childbirth and with limited access to contraception, multiple pregnancies are the norm. On average, a woman in Pakistan can expect to have seven children.

Pakistan also ranked third because of cultural and religious practices which place women in greater danger, such as child and forced marriage. And studies suggest that nine out of ten women in Pakistan experience some form of domestic violence. Pakistani women also regularly face the threat of a serious attack. According to Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, over 1,000 women and girls die each year as victims of ‘honour killings’.

To illustrate the sort of violence faced by women and girls in Pakistan, the Guardian this week highlighted the case of Naila Farhat who lives in the south of the Punjab province. In 2003, Naila was 13 years old and began being harassed by her science teacher. Walking home one day after class, the teacher and an accomplice stopped her and demanded she go with them. Because Naila refused to go, one of the men held her while the other threw acid in her face. This is a common form of punishment meted out by men in Pakistan when a woman refuses their advances or marriage proposal. Naila received 30 per cent burns and as well as being disfigured, lost the sight in one eye. Yet the school teacher who attacked her was never prosecuted; his case was dropped after the local police were bribed. However, with support from the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), Naila has successfully managed to prosecute the man’s accomplice, who was jailed in 2009 for twelve years.

The ASF is currently campaigning for laws in Pakistan to restrict how battery acid is traded. And after many operations, Naila has taken up her studying again and says her ambition is to become a lawyer.

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