The launch of Touch Condoms has accompanied by an impressive marketing campaign and during the last year or is its been almost impossible to get away from them. There have been ads in newspapers and on tv, posters and billboards, and even a song that has been playing on a number of channels. Its so weird seeing all these ads, its even weirder for my mother who changes the channel as soon their ad comes on! Here's the song:
Kudos to Green Star for communicating their message and programs openly and clearly rather than going for the whole nudge nudge wink wink approach. just so that we wouldn't feel uncomfortable. Many Pakistani organizations involved in the field of reproductive and sexual health are guilty of being too conservative in their approach and apppear to place a higher value on our comfort levels rather than the clarity of their message.
A case in point: Earlier this year, the Marie Stopes Society Pakistan, another organization that does some wonderful work in this area, launched a website dedicated to answering questions on sex and reproduction. They published an advertisement on the back page of the Dawn Magazine, which stated:
DO YOU HAVE CONCERNS YOU FIND HARD TO DISCUSS
NOW YOU CAN TALK TO US GET IMPARTIAL, FRIENDLY, PROFESSIONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL ADVICE AND SUPPORT.
It was a quarter page advertisement and they couldn't find the space to write sex or reproduction even once. I can understand that NGOs are wary of offending the public, or more importantly an idiot in power, but that shouldn't prevent them from commuicating their programs.
Incidentally srhmatters.org is a great website that offers information on sex, puberty, masturbation, rape, STDs, etc., perhaps more importantly they provide condidential online (via email) counseling on all these issues and more. More people need to know about this website, and more people would have had Marie Stopes not chickened out of advertising the site a bit more clearly.
Pakistanis really do need to come out and talk about these issues more openly and they need access to organizations that can provide them with help, even if the help only involves explaining puberty to a 14 year old.
Pakistan has one of the worst records in the world when it comes to dealing with these issues and before we can resolve them we need to be able to discuss them openly. The situation really is quite grim, according to the Pakistan Red Crescent Society:
Pakistan ranks behind most developing countries in the reproductive health risk index . Pakistan has one of the lowest records in female health and education and its fertility rate of 4.00 and population growth rate of 1.9 is considerably higher than other Asian countries including Bangladesh , India and Sri Lanka
One in 38 Pakistani women dies from pregnancy related causes as compared to 1 in 230 women in Sri Lanka. Almost one half of women are anemic throughout their pregnancies. Maternal mortality is estimated as 350-400 per 100000 live births.. Approximately 80% deaths are due to direct obstetric causes. Hepatitis is the most frequently cited indirect cause of maternal death. About 12% of deaths are due to induced abortion.
Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world where men outnumber women. This unfavorable ratio is mainly a consequence of excess mortality of young girls and women in the childbearing age. Infant mortality and morbidity associated with pregnancy relates conditions are high and the rate of infant mortality from all causes is one of the highest in Asia.
The extent of reproductive tract infections in Pakistan has not been documented. Studies in a comparable setting suggest that women suffer a substantial but silent burden. Reproductive tract infections including sexually transmitted diseases can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, infertility and chronic pain and also increase women’s susceptibility to HIV infection.
Cancers of the breast and reproductive tract constitute a significant proportion of cancers seen in Pakistan. A study involving 5 hospitals in 4 provinces found 19%of women had cancers of gyneacological causes. Cancer of the breast is the most common, accounting for 20% of all cases.
Women’s disproportionate poverty, low social status and reproductive role expose them to high health risks, resulting in needless suffering, many preventable deaths and disability. This unfortunate situation can no longer be ignored.