Violence against women and girls


An eighteen-year-old woman chronically raped by her father, brother and uncles since she was eight.
A nineteen-year-old girl having chronic pelvic and genital pain secondary to genital mutilation.
A twelve-year-old female child being sold and married off to a forty two year old man in her village.
A twenty-eight-year old woman physically beaten by her husband regularly when he is intoxicated.
A forty–ear old woman who was kidnapped and sold to her former husband when she was nineteen.

These are just examples of women and female children whom I have come into contact with through my clinical practice, outreach work and in my social life. I have found these women in the emergency rooms, in psychiatric facilities, in the genitourinary medicine & contraception clinics. I have found these women not only as a doctor in the corridors of hospitals – I have found these women in the lanes of my life.

All of these women, as you may have guessed by now, have been subject to violence. Violence against women takes place in several forms – physical violence by intimate partners, sexual harassment, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, trafficking, child marriages etc.

Although there is an increased awareness of the violence suffered by women and female children, we still live in a society where violence is horrifically rampant. We live in a world where a third of the countries have NOT outlawed domestic violence. We live in a world where 1 in 7 girls are married in Central and West Africa before they are 15 years of age. We live in a world where 1 in 2 women were killed by their partners and/or families in 2012. We live in a country where up to a third of adolescent women describe their first sexual experience as rape/sexual abuse. We live in a world where thirty-seven countries exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution if they are married or marry the victim after the event1.

The purpose of this article is to educate and discuss the nature of violence experienced by women, to understand the extent of the problem, and finally, what to expect from our health professionals and our governments.

The vast majority of the statistics and information is taken from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations websites, which I implore you to read. All of the factual information, which is present in this article, from the aforementioned institutions is listed at the end.

Background and definitions

Violence against women is a global public health problem and a violation of human rights. The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life2 .

A 2013 analysis conduct by WHO with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the South Africa Medical Research Council, used existing data from over 80 countries and found that worldwide, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence3.

Risk factors4

The risk factors for women experiencing intimate partner violence include low education, exposure to mothers being abused, abuse during childhood, attitudes accepting violence, male privilege and women’s subordinate status.

Equally, men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they have low education, a history of child maltreatments, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, alcohol dependence, unequal gender norms, attitudes accepting violence and privilege over women.

Factors associated with sexual violence perpetration include beliefs in family honour, sexual purity, ideologies of male sexual entitlement and weak legal sanctions for sexual violence.

Impacts on health, children and socioeconomics

Physical and sexual violence against women has led to physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health issues of victims. Some of these include unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and other gynaecological problems. Specifically, in pregnancies, the risks include miscarriage, pre-term labour and the babies being at significant risks related to low birth weight.

Women exposed to partner violence as twice as likely to experience depression; almost twice as likely to have alcohol use disorders; 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhoea and 16% more likely to have a low birth weight baby. Furthermore, 42% of women who have experienced physical/sexual violence at the hands of a partner have experienced further injuries as a result and 38% of all murders of women, globally, were committed by their intimate partners1,3.

Children who witness such violence can display behavioural and emotional disturbances as well as being at risk of being perpetrators of violence themselves. Intimate partner violence has also been linked with higher rates of infant and child morbidity and mortality3.

The social and economic costs include women being at risk of suffering isolation, not being able to work, losing wages, not participating in regular activities and being unable to care for their children.

Prevention and response5

There are a number of guidelines as to how health professionals can train, prepare and respond for issues in violence against women. These include:

  1. Providing women centred care – professionals offering first-line support when violence is disclosed i.e. empathy, non-judgemental attitude, privacy, confidentiality and access to relevant services.
  2. Identifying and caring for survivors of intimate partner violence – Professionals should ask about exposure to violence with the aim to improve diagnosis, identification and subsequent care. First line clinical care should include emergency contraception, STI and HIV with relevant follow up.
  3. Mandatory reporting of intimate partner violence to the police is NOT recommended. Professionals should offer support to report the incident if the woman chooses. It is important to know the legal framework of reporting in each state/country. Usually if an incident is to be reported, the professionals should NOT carry out an intimate examination.
  4. Training of healthcare providers – Adequate history taking, risk management, investigations and planning management should be done at a pre-qualification level.
  5. Healthcare policy and provision – Care for women experience violence and sexual assault should be, where possible, integrated into existing health services as opposed to a stand alone service. In the UK, this can include presenting to a General Practice, GUM services and if required, A&E.

Prevention is a powerful tool and evidence base from high-income countries has suggested that advocacy and counselling improve access to services for victims and are effective in reducing violence. In low resource countries, prevention strategies that have shown some effectivity include programs that empower women economically and socially through a combination of microfinance and skills training related to gender equality; that promote communication and relationship skills within couples and communities; transform harmful gender and social norms through education6.

Legislation is another key aspect, which can help achieve change. There is a need to implement policies that promote gender equality by ending discrimination against women in marriage, divorce and custody laws; ending discrimination in inheritance laws; improving women’s access to employment and developing national policies to address violence against women5,6.

References and further reading

1. United Nations. Declaration on the elimination of violence against women. New York : UN, 1993.

2. United Nations. Fact and figures: Ending violence against women.

3. World Health Organisation. Global and regional estimates of violence against women. Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence.

4. World Health Organisation. Violence against women and children: facts.

5. World Health Organisation. Primary prevention of intimate-partner violence and sexual violence: Background paper for WHO expert meeting May 2–3, 2007
6. World Health Organisation. Infographics: Violence against women infographic.

Written by: Dr Huma R Khan


Mental health, society and stigma.

Author: Huma R Khan

The extent of the issue

The premise of this article is to discuss mental health, common mental health issues, the issues of stigma and to signpost to some important resources and organisations.

Mental health problems are a significant contributor to the overall disease burden worldwide, with major depression being the second leading cause.

  1. 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in a given year.
  2. Mental health and behaviour illnesses are estimated to cause over 40 million years of disability in 20-29 year olds.
  3. In Britain alone, between 2003 and 2013, 18,220 people with mental health problems committed suicide.
  4. 1 in 15 has made a suicide attempt in their life.
  5. 75% of young people with a mental health treatment are NOT receiving treatment.
  6. The average wait for effective treatment is 10 years1-3.

The World Health Organisation definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Mental health in this regard refers to our psychological and emotional wellbeing.

There are a number of mental health problems and they are multifaceted in their aetiology. For example, they can be caused by a combination of biological factors (e.g. genes, brain chemistry), life experiences (e.g. trauma, abuse) and/or family history of mental health problems4 .

Physical and mental health are also not two separate entities as poor physical health increases your risk of developing mental health problems. Individuals with mental health problems have shown worse trends in morbidity and mortality.

Mental health problems can include depression, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress, learning and eating disorders as well as substance misuse and addiction. The discussion of these is beyond the remit of this article, and as such, we shall focus on the stigmatisation of people with mental health problems.

Society and Stigma

Despite the vast numbers of people affected by mental health problems, there is a huge social stigma and discrimination that is experienced. This stigma crosses barriers of countries, cultures and various creeds. Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems face discrimination and statistically we know that these groups face issues with finding work, being in a steady relationship, having adequate housing and being socially included in mainstream society2.

Mental health stigma can be divided into two types;

  1. social stigma – prejudiced attitudes and discrimination directed towards those with a mental health problem
  2. self stigma – the internalisation by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination, leading to feelings of shame and guilt5 .

Stigma has three important aspects to it; stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination6 .

Strategies for changing public stigma

Broadly speaking, three approaches have been proposed to deal with social stigma; protest, education and contact7.

  1. Protest includes challenging the inaccurate and hostile depictions of mental health, which can be found in media and public opinion.
  2. Education is the provision of information to individuals and groups in order to maximise their understanding and lessen negative stereotypes. A number of studies have shown that educational strategies have led to improved attitudes and education in the likelihood of discriminating8 .
  3. Contact includes people with mental health disorders meeting those without, especially in the context of a social environment e.g. work. Research has shown that such contact events have led to decreased endorsement of psychiatric stigma.

What can YOU do?

Educate yourself!

Mental health issues are extremely common and unfortunately, so is the prejudice and discrimination against the people who are affected. The first step is always to educate yourself, and then to educate others. Knowledge is a powerful tool, which can not only help break down stigma, but also helps empower groups of people to come forward and seek the help they need, without the fear of perceptions. Below are some useful resources, which provide with statistics, have educational material and signpost to relevant groups for professionals, patients and the general public.


  1. Time to change.
    Social movement working to raise awareness of and ending stigma associated with mental health.
  2. Mind
    Mental health charity in England, which is working to provide information and advice to those with mental health problems.
  3. Mental Health Foundation
    Improving lives of those with mental health problems and/or learning difficulties.
  4. The centre for mental health
    Organisation working to improve quality of life for those with mental health problems. A wealth of information and support links.
  5. Depression Alliance
    Information and support to those affected by depression.
  6. Relate
    Offering advice, relationship counselling, workshops and meditation.
  7. Anxiety UK
    Charity supporting those living with anxiety disorders including information provision, support and 1:1 therapy.


  1. Time to change. About mental health.
  2. Mental Health Foundation. Mental health statistics:
  3. Centre for Mental Health, UK.
  4. World Health Organisation. Constitution of the World Health Organisation as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June 1946.
  5. Corrigan PW. Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World Psychiatry. 2002 Feb 1(1): 16-20.
  6. Corrigan PW. Mental health stigma as social attribution: implications for research methods and attitude change. Clin Psychol Sci Pract.2000;7:48–67.
  7. Allport GW. The nature of prejudice. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books
  8. Roman PM., Jr Floyd HH., Jr Social acceptance of psychiatric illness and psychiatric treatment. Soc Psychiatry.1981;16:16–21.
  9. Corrigan PW. River LP. Lundin RK, et al. Three strategies for changing attributions about severe mental illness.Schizophr Bull.2001;27:187–195



Polygyny – Provision or Privilege

Written By: Rabia Nazir

The fast-pacing world is not only shaping thinking patterns of masses; the relationship forms and choices are also moving from ‘traditional’ to ‘tailored’. Non-believing researchers often question that why a religion like Islam which strongly supports the rights of women accepts ‘polygamy’. Islam allows ‘polygyny’ to be more specific; implying that a man can have multiple spouses. A woman is not allowed to have more than one husband at a given time; logical enough because of the impossibility of the identification of off-springs born to the mother with many husbands.

Historian would agree with me on this that ‘polygyny’ was not something introduced by Islam. It had been present in various shapes among different cultures and religions from pre-Islamic times. Such polygynic relationships were driven by numerous motives including passion, power, and pleasure etc. There was also not any limit on the number of partners (including either legitimate or illegitimate) a man can have1, 2.

Yes, polygyny is allowed in Islam but only under ‘special circumstances’. Our beloved Prophet (Peace be upon him) had at least 13 wives according to testified sources. We should also appreciate here that Prophet (peace be upon him) remained married to Hazrat Khadeeja (may Allah be pleased with her) only from the age of 25 to 50 years during the time of his prime youth whereas there was a culture of polygyny among Arabs in the society at that time. Anyone who has read Quran and life of Prophet (peace be upon him) closely and thoroughly knows that the purpose of these marriages was either strategic (to establish family ties with close companions particularly newly converted tribes) or social (looking after the widows/divorcees) 3, 4. Islam allows polygyny as a provision to accommodate the women who have no family members to support them and are not in position to support them otherwise. The conditional nature of polygyny in Islam can be clearly understood from the following verse of Surah Al-Nisa:

‘Marry woman of your choice in twos’ threes’ or fours’ but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly, (with them), then only one’ [4:3]

If a man decides to have more than one wife for a good reason; he should be able to do justice among the wives in terms of financial support, time, and attention. Understanding the human nature, it has already been said in Glorious Quran:

 ‘It is very difficult to be just and fair between women’. [4:129]

Polygyny has been misunderstood by majority of people in our society in a way that it looks like a privilege given to men for enjoying relationships with many spouses. Islamic polygyny is never about satisfying lust or sexual needs. In case of polygyny, all wives are given equal status and there shouldn’t be a ‘favourite wife’ or ‘sweet-heart’. For this reason, the Messenger of God asked God’s pardon for any unintentional leanings. He would make this prayer:

‘‘I may have unintentionally shown more love to one of them than the others and this would have been injustice. So, O Lord, I take refuge in Your grace for those things which are beyond my power.’’5

I have seen ‘forced marriages’ as the most common motive for ‘a second marriage’. We all come across cases in newspapers and on television where people in forced marriages later become involved in cheating, leaving parents/families/children, and even murders sometimes. In many cases, second marriage is done secretly without the permission or the knowledge of the first wife. What we forget that our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) has greatly emphasized that the ‘wedding contract/Nikah’ should be performed and announced publicly. Therefore, a ‘secret second marriage’ is a false practice on the account of polygyny6. I believe that these things would happen to a lesser extent if parents should consider and accept their children’s choice of life-partner regardless of sect, cast, and social status.

Some people also decide to marry second time if they remain childless from first marriage or for the desire of having a son. I’m not an Islamic scholar to comment on this that if it is justified or not. However, the thing which worries me is that our Pakistani dramas are still preaching these ideas to viewers that it is women’s choice/fault that she could not bear a male child. I can’t digest that how on earth is it possible that a woman can decide if she wants to bear a girl or a boy…………

I deeply regret when I see people justifying their unreasonable choices in the name of Islam without bothering to understand the philosophy behind the provision of polygyny. OK! I do understand that you want to do some social work by marrying some women out there but then why not marry widows/divorcees with children, or the orphans, or the needy with no family, or an averaged looking poor girl, or someone disabled by a road accident? Why is it taken as a privilege token to marry only younger and good-looking girls? I ll leave you to think about it!


  1. George Elliott Howard, ‘The Project Gutenberg E-Book of A History of Matrimonial Institutions’, [2015].
  2. George Monger, ‘Marriage customs of the world: from henna to honeymoons’, [2004].
  3. Sayyid Ali Ashgar Razwy, ‘Khadijatul Kubra, A Short Story of Her Life

  1. Rachel Jones, ‘Polygyny in Islam’, Macalester Islam Journal, [2006].
  2. Tirmidhi, ‘Nikah’, 41.
  3. Mohammad Fadel, ‘Islamic marriage, temporary marriage, secret marriage and polygamous marriage


Glacial ice- what is the future?

Part 1

Author and Narrator : Fozia Tahir


Background Information 

Fresh water accounts for only 3% of global water resources. Remaining 97% is sea water that contains salt and is unfit for drinking and agriculture. Out of the 3% freshwater available 2.5% is in frozen form in glaciers and arctic ice. Most of this water is stored in aquifers, followed by rainfall falling, natural lakes, man-made storage facilities and rivers. Even this little water that is available for human consumption is not evenly distributed around the world.

Water is essential for life on the planet. It seems to be the only divide between poverty and prosperity. It’s essential for life on the planet (agriculture, food, energy and manufacturing etc) and defines the ecosystem. The limited fresh water supply is getting impacted by rise in population and climate change. Water demands are increasing while the supplies shrink. This requires communities to adapt to the changes. However, there is a need for all of us to mitigate alongside adapting to the global environmental changes. As the water stress and scarcity increases in some areas, increased runoff and rise in sea level will take place in others. Today’s article will focus on one of the largest fresh water resources on the planet i.e. glaciers (and arctic ice).

Case Study

A study in Australia predicted that areas of Antarctica that are permanently without ice could increase by up to 25 per cent by the end of the century because of climate change. About 68,000 square kilometres (less than 1%) of the white continent is currently ice free, and that land is home to 99 per cent of Antarctica’s terrestrial plants and animals, including penguins, seals and seabirds and unique species of mosses, lichens, fungi and small invertebrates. According to Aleks Terauds, a lead researcher with the Australian Antarctic Division, expansion of ice-free areas could have serious implications for biodiversity because of increased homogenisation. The biodiversity of Antarctica is unique, vulnerable, different to anywhere else in the world, and so well protected but we have to manage their conservation and protection with climate change. We must join scientist in efforts to reduce carbon emissions around the world as the rise in sea level will also strip many island communities of their homes.

Climate change is a threat because species have evolved to live within certain temperature ranges, and when these are exceeded and a species cannot adapt to the new temperatures, or when the other species it depends on to live cannot adapt (its food supply), its survival is threatened. All changes we have seen to date has been for a temperature rise of less than 1% since the late 19thCentury. The international panel on climate change (IPCC) has predicted a rise of an average 6 degrees Celsius or more by 2100 based on the current trends in burning fossil fuel.  

Glacial Ice and Glaciers:

Glacial ice (glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets) covers nearly 10% land area on earth and accounts for 75% of the global freshwater.  World glacier inventory (WGI) provides information for over 100,000 glaciers throughout the world. Glaciers form where snow is deposited during the cold and does not entirely melt during warm periods. This seasonal snow gradually densifies and transforms into perennial firn and then the interconnecting passages between the grains are closed off into ice. This mass of surface-ice on land which flows downhill under gravity and is constrained by internal stress and friction at the base and sides. In general, a glacier is formed and maintained by accumulation of snow at high altitudes, balanced by melting at low altitudes or discharge into lakes or the sea. Glacial surges (i.e. advances due to sudden flow with velocities up to 100 times faster than normal advances) and glacial retreats are natural events but their scale is increasing with climate change. Changes in atmospheric conditions influence the mass and energy balance at the glacier surface. In fact, the very concept of climate change has long been spread, showing calving or break off and fall of glacier ice into the water.

Lake formation and glacial lake outburst flood

Lakes can be formed underneath (subglacial), within (englacial), on the top (supraglacial) of or in front (proglacial) of a glacier. The lake formation can be permanent, periodic or infrequent, controlled by the changes in the glacial drainage system. The change can be slow or catastrophic after a threshold. Earthquakes, subglacial volcanic eruption, rock avalanches or debris flows reaching lake can also cause sudden GLOF. Lake formation and glacier retreat usually happen in parallel. As the glaciers retreat, they also deflate and more crevices open. Some of these outbursts endanger human life and resources.



With 7,253 known glaciers, including 543 in the Chitral Valley, there is more glacial ice in Pakistan than anywhere on Earth outside the polar regions, according to various studies. Those glaciers feed rivers that account for about 75 percent of the stored-water supply in the country of at least 180 million. But like the other parts of the world, the glaciers are receding, especially those at lower elevations in the KPK. Factors such as overpopulation, poverty complicate the glacial receding e.g. scooping of the ice in warm weathers by people who make money out of it. Data gathered by the met office over the last 50 years shows that around 120 of the glaciers are showing signs of melting.

Other researches recommend that in Gilgit Baltistan due to higher precipitation the glaciers may expand. Many glaciers are covered with silt and debris that insulate them. One such research was carried out in the Shimshal valleyof Pakistan to investigate why while glaciers in the other parts of the world are shrinking, many Karakoram glaciers are advancing. The effect is known as Karakoram anomaly. I will be speaking to the researcher in my next podcast about his research.

Until we come back with the next section of this podcast I want you think about 

What should be done?

  • Does the state implement any laws on ownership and use of glacial ice?
  • Are local communities aware of sustainable use of natural resources?
  • How has change in glacial ice impacted local wildlife?
  • What should be next?
  • Do we have quality local and national level research going on?
  • Do the studies involve GPS and other satellite tools to understand the change and the rate at which change is happening?
  • What will be the effect of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on the already melting glaciers?






  1. “Water for People, Water for Life” UnitedNations World Water Development Report, Part II: A look at the world’s freshwater resources. UNESCO, 2003,
  2. April 18)
  3. April 18)


 April 2018: Photo showing rescue operation in progress past a rock and ice avalanche in Ultar Hunza (source: Pamir times)190769_32934_updates



Sabz Photography Competition

Think Globally, Capture Locally 

Global Environmental pollution and temperature are on the rise and the risk associated with climate change are escalating. Adaptation and serious steps towards mitigation are essential to bring change in the society on individual as well as policy level. Climate change is a global reality that will affect us, regardless of our contribution in causing it. Yet, somehow the message does not reach an average citizen of a country like Pakistan. This may be due to reasons such as;

  • Lack of awareness and education about the issue and using mediums distantly related to a common countryman such as use of arctic polar bears for awareness in areas dominated by deserts,
  • Using long term projection as an alarm like, ‘Pakistan may run out of water by 2025’. While sharing future projections is important, its events happening on their day to day life that will make them truly stand up and demand something such as the daily access to water, water quality, recent smog and air pollution issue in the urban centres of Pakistan etc.
  • Use of data and graphs instead of simple visuals such as pictures and art exhibits make it difficult for people to understand the sensitivity of the issue as well.


Pakistan is producing some great photographers with the focus on landscape, portrait and fashion photography. There should be projects to commission them about wildlife photography, biodiversity, pollution, climate change and its impact on people, but own initiative to create awareness about local and global environmental issues is in general missing, and this has motivated MEK to run a photography competition event for World Environment Day 2018.


It is unfortunate that in Pakistan, many basic issues such as access to food, water and shelter are yet to be addressed, but these issues will also worsen with climate change and therefore sensitisation of people towards taking care of the planet needs to be initiated sooner rather than later.

Considering its mission and vision and need for research, Meer-e-Karwan is inviting photographers from all around Pakistan to take part in this initiative of creating awareness about global environmental issues through local visuals.



The following categories can be considered by the photographers for submission

  • Impact of Climate Change:How has the change in weather pattern and their unpredictability impacted landscapes and communities?
  • Pollution: Air, land and water pollution are so visible in Pakistan that it is impossible to avoid them on a daily basis. What do you see around you that you would like to change?
  • Biodiversity: Pakistan is rich in natural landscapes and diverse species inhabiting them but there aren’t enough people documenting it.
  • Water and Food Scarcity
  • Environmental Ethics:Populations live around slums, Animals have no rights and these two are some of the many examples that you can document in this category
  • Effect of Natural Landscape (Glaciers, Lakes, Rivers etc)
  • Renewable Energy and Green Economy: Not all stories have to be visually disturbing. If you know of projects that harbour natural resources for power production and economic growth in a region you can submit it too.
  • Open: You can also submit your picture in open category if you think it does not fit in, in any of the categories described above

*Note that a single entrant cannot submit more than three pictures.


Describe your entry in 100-300 words

  • When and Where was the picture taken
  • What does it depict
  • How can it change local perception about the issue and necessary actions?

Send your picture alongside your Name, city of residence (address), educational qualification/current employment and send it to meer3karwan@gmail.comor meer-e-Karwan (Facebook page) by 20thMay 2018. A google form is also available for submission.


You will keep the copy rights for the photo but we may share it from MEK karwan with due credits.

Competition Timeline

Table 1: Timeline of the event Description Date
1 Competition Commences 1st May 2018


2 Entries close 20th May 2018


3 Judges Decision 30th May 2018
3 Decision Announcement 5Th June 2018

(World Environment Day)

4 Letter and Prize Money *Before 15thJune 2018


*A prize money of Rs. 5,000 will be awarded to the first place and 3000 and 1500 will be awarded to the entrants that secure the second and third place in the competition.


  1. Professor Dr. Irfan Khan, Professor, Environmental Science/ Engineering, IIUI, Islamabad
  2. Ana Castro Castellon, Environmental Engineer, Thames water, Oxford
  3. Adnan Malik, Actor and WWF ambassador in Pakistan


 Judging Criteria


  • Originality
  • Content
  • Understanding of the issue

Local and Global Impact (potential


Sabz Photography Compeition-MEK



Adnan Malik

AdnanMalik is an actor and the WWF Pakistan, goodwill ambassador. He was an organizing member of the Karachi Film Festival from 2004-2008 and founder of “Turn the Tide”, a collective of young professionals, which raised over $150,000 from around the world for environmental emergencies in Pakistan. He was also an Asia Society Fellow.

In addition, Adnan is an award-winning actor and filmmaker based in Karachi and is the director of Adnan Malik Production (AMP), a boutique media production house. A majority of his work uses pop culture and identity as a point of investigation. He is currently directing a variety of music videos and TV commercials. As an actor he was the main male lead in “Cake”, an acclaimed Pakistani film that recently received 4 stars in the Guardian. Adnan was also the Video Producer for Coke Studio Pakistan (2008-2013), a highly acclaimed musical platform that bridges barriers, celebrates diversity and encourages unity.

Adnan received a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies with a minor in Public Economics from Vassar College, where he was the recipient of the Jeane Daly Wirsig Award for ‘Promise and Excellence in the field of Journalism.’

We would like to thank Adnan for his time and welcome him to Karwan.

Twitter @adnanmalik                     Instagram @adnanmalik1 

Prof. Dr. Muhammad Irfan Khan


“Prof. Dr. Muhammad Irfan Khan, currently serving as founder Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, International Islamic University, Islamabad. He has served as Dean of the largest faculty (6000+ students), Basic & Applied Sciences at IIU till 2012. He has more than 30 years of professional experience including graduate and undergraduate teaching and research in local, national and international universities imparting education through formal and non-formal distance learning mode.

Prof. Khan obtained his PhD from London University in the field of Environmental Science and was a post-doctoral research fellow of on Environmental Policy at the University of Oxford in 1995-1996.

He has published three books and more than 30 research papers in HEC recognized journals and many research reports for national and international organizations. He serves as member in many international bodies like United Nations High Commission on Human Rights and Environment for consultation on environmental human rights; Technical Committee 248 on sustainability criteria for bioenergy (ISO 13065) of ISO, Geneva, Switzerland; BoG of international consortium of NGO’s Shipbreaking Platform, Brussels, Belgium.

In the country, he serves as Convenor, National Curriculum Review Committee in Environmental Science of HEC; Chairman National Mirror Committee on Environmental Management & Sustainability of Pakistan Standard & Quality Control Authority, Ministry of Science & Technology; Member, Technical Committee 1 of PSQCA on Environmental Management and national Multi stakeholder Technical Committee of Ministry of Climate Change for development of National Sustainable Development Strategy, 2017.

Prof. Khan has also provided technical assistance as consultant to several projects in World Bank, ADB, IFC financed projects, UNFAO, and UNEP for national and international project

His dedication to translate research into policy and governance is commendable and we thank him for agreeing to join the Karwan for this competition.


Dr. Ana Castro-Castellon

Dr. Ana Castro is originally from Colombia and has chased her passion for environment and microbiology to the UK via Spain. She holds an MSc by research in the area of Ecosystem Change with the School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol. She has led many water and wastewater treatment projects with Wessex Water plc, (Bath, UK) and has proudly lived her dream of gaining a PhD degree from the University of Oxford in the area of Chemical and Environmental Engineering. During her DPhil in Oxford, She was particularly active in forums like women in engineering in Oxford.

Ana is currently working for Thames Water as a field process scientist, with the objective to protect public health and the environment.

Ana Volunteers for Water Aid and science related outreach activities. She promotes science and research and gives talks to students ranging from school to postgraduate level.

In addition, Ana is particularly interested in mental health and peer supporting and has received training and qualification for running peer support programs.

We admire strong women like Ana and welcome her on board.




Sexuality and Physical Education at Home and School

Written and Narrated by: Fozia Tahir

According to UNESCO (2009), the primary goal of sexuality education is to equip children and young people with the knowledge, skills and values to make responsible choices about their sexual and social relationships in a world affected by HIV. In addition to learning about the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), children and young people also need to learn about the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse to recognise these when they occur, to protect themselves as far as possible and to identify and access available sources of support. Sensitising children, parents, teachers, police and local communities to the nature and extent of sexual violence, and giving permission to discuss it, are essential steps in tackling it. Sexuality education can provide an appropriate framework and context for educating students about sexual abuse.

This process of gaining knowledge about sexuality can come from both formal and informal sources focusing on the core set facts about sexuality. What should be included in the formal sex education is yet another area that needs more research and discussion.

Values permeate the whole process of sex education. But one must still question why should there be a discussion on this?

  • Because the diversity that exists in contemporary society makes a consensus on value impossible
  • Because some of the aims of sex education such as reduction in number of child abuse cases, teenage pregnancies, exposure to diseases etc, are of much importance to all societies
  • Because it can help individuals develop a non-judgmental approach towards diversity in society (not however towards rape and sexual abuse)

The process of value development begins at earliest childhood and goes throughout life and schools have a distinct role to play in this value system, including

  • Reflect the values of the society
  • To fill in the gaps in student knowledge and understanding including the knowledge of importance of values
  • Encourage pupils to choose a rational path through the variety of influence that can impinge on their experience e.g. they need help to make sense of diversity of sexual values which they have picked up from variety of sources and to be critically reflective

All of this however requires for the teachers to be critically reflective themselves.

There is a lack of consensus on sexual values, with religion being the major influence. Over the time however, sexuality has become more visible and much more widely accepted. When it comes to global sexuality education programs most often three approaches are observed

  1. The right based approach
  2. The morality approach
  3. The health approach

Schools are very often given freedom in sexuality education curricula.

  1. Right based approach (RBA):

This approach is based on human rights i.e. entitlements that belong to individuals despite their gender, race, religious orientation, ethnicity or socio-economic status. It is up to governments on how to proceed with these rights. RBA combines human rights, development and social activism to promote justice, equality and freedom. It also ensures gender sensitive and sex positive education for young people to be more empowered. Sexuality education can also address social inequality and exclusion.

  1. Morality based approach:

The idea of morality-based approach is to make children honest, responsible, compassionate and virtuous i.e. to turn students into mature adults. Sexuality education is tied to sexual morality and religion. Moral values are quite a sensitive issue e.g. presenting the idea of pre-marital sex in many religious countries.

  1. Health based approach:

Education that relates to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, rather than concentrating on sex prevention strategies. This approach allows individuals to face the facts and understand health challenges and outcomes of unsafe sex.

  1. Abstinence until marriage:

The main opposing approach to sexuality education is abstinence only. Not only does it encourage abstinence of sex until marriage but also avoids discussion on use of contraceptives and disease prevention.

In terms of practice and application in schools, Morality based approach seems to be the preferred type.

But how does individual make these choices?

Decision theory explains the factors that go into each decision that a person makes. Decisions may happen in a split second or over a matter of minutes, days, or years. When faced with several decisions, a person considers the benefits and risks of each choice. They make a comparison and decide that one choice is worth a substantial risk because of its substantial benefits. Weighing the benefits and risks of sexual activity is usually a longer and more complicated process. The sex education debate is much about decision theory. What information will enable young people to view risk and benefit in ways that will lead them to make good sexual decisions.

Sex and sex education although being ageless are a taboo topic in conservative societies like ours. It is true that even educated people like myself will not appreciate too much information for children at a younger age. But if one thinks about it closely there is a floodgate of information available online and It is perhaps better for students to learn basic physical and health education in schools.

Whether this education should come from homes or schools is still arguable, I personally think it has to come from both.

United Kingdom

Sex education in school

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) is taught as part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) under the National Curriculum in the UK.

SRE aims to:

  • recognise the importance of marriage and stable relationships in family life and raising children
  • provide information appropriate to each age group
  • involve parents as much as possible in their child’s sex education
  • reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Initially, parents had the right to withdraw their child from SRE classes up until the age of 19. But it has now become compulsory for children aged 15-16.

What will a child learn in sex education class in the UK

Children are taught about different aspects of sex at different ages, summarised in the following table

Age Guide to what is taught
ages 5-7 puberty, relationships and how to be safe
ages 7-11 puberty, relationships (including marriage, divorce, separation, same-sex and civil partnerships), managing emotions and dealing with negative pressures
ages 11-14 sexual activity, human reproduction, contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, relationships
ages 14-16 body image and health, choices about sex, parenting skills and family life, separation and divorce

Faith schools are encouraged to devise SRE classes that reflect their faith’s values and ethical codes.

Sex education at home

Role of a parents in child’s education about sex and relationships is important. The teaching of these subjects in school is designed to complement the discussions parents have with a child at home.

Before discussion, parents should

  • Think about their own views on sex and what matters to them in relationships and family life.
  • Work out their own values and morals so that the children get clear, consistent messages about sex and relationships throughout childhood.

Sex education is most effective when it’s built up gradually over a number of years, so ignoring the subject will not help the children. Its helpful for a child to grow up with clarity about sex and relationships.

Tips for parents on talking to a child about sex and relationships:

  • Try to make discussion of sex a part of normal life not just a one-off talk (according to your norms and values).
  • Talk as naturally as possible to your child as this will encourage him or her to be more relaxed and open with you.
  • Answer any questions your child asks as clearly as you can so that he or she doesn’t become confused.
  • Listen carefully to what your child has to say and try to deal with any fears, concerns or misunderstandings as they arise.
  • Be truthful if you don’t know the answer to a question – try to find out the answer and then raise the topic again another day.
  • Don’t avoid a topic if you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about raising it. Consider introducing the subject via discussion of a TV programme or magazine article or what your child is learning in class.
  • Make sure any discussions are appropriate to the age of your child


Challenges of Sexuality Education

  1. Influence of parents on the education of their children
  2. Teaching social skills relevant to sexual behaviour in classroom settings requires special expertise in both design and delivery of the content


Pros of sex education:

A sexually educated person besides being educated and informed

  • Will have certain personal qualities e.g. self-assertion, personal security, and fairness etc
  • Will have certain attitude e.g. such as views on abortion, divorce, or homosexuality
  • Will have certain skill e.g. responsible decision making

So, I would like to conclude that with the amount of information available online and offline and rising occurrences of cases of child sexual abuse and sexual harassment, bans on abortion its becoming more and more important for proper research and debate in this field and for it to be taught from formal forms of education and therefore schools and education systems have a huge role to play in it.


  • Magoon, Kekla. Sex Education in Schools. Edina Minnesota: ABDO Publishing, 2010
  • Bella, V. L. 2014. Incorporating Sexuality Education in the Public-School System: Perceptions from the Philippines. University of Amsterdam, MSc International development studies, Amsterdam.
  • (30-1-2018)
  • Halstead, J. M. & Reiss, M. J. 2003. Values in sex education: from principles to practice. RoutledgerFalmer, London
  • 2009. International technical guidance on sexuality education. Paris: Unesco. Online at ExternalDocument/2009/20091210_international_guidance_sexuality_education_vol_2_en.pdf


Infatuation with aesthetic experience

To be or not to be comfortable in one’s skin

Written and narrated by: Fozia Tahir

How many advertisements do you come across daily that are a reminder of what beauty is to women of all shape, size and age.
Has the society plotted impossible standards for beauty?
Is there a right age to start wearing makeup?
Why is it so important for some professionals to wear makeup at all times like the air hostesses?
Has the overuse of makeup led to feeling of inadequacy among women?
Has this beauty obsession led to decline in self-esteem?
Are people aware of how much money they waste on makeup and how heavy these beauty products are on their pocket?
It is not just the use of cosmetic products but going to other extremes such as plastic surgery to meet the standards of beauty set by the society making cosmetics industry worth billions of dollars.
I am a beauty industry cynic, with let women be comfortable in their skin mindset but I also think that makeup amongst many other things is a matter of personal choice. I truly admire all my friends who the time and energy to turn makeup into art. This leaves in an even harder position i.e. to put forth my views without hurting anyone’s right to look more beautiful for themselves.
First things first.

Why do people apply makeup?
Because its quick, easy and inexpensive compared to other methods like diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery to meet the standards of beauty enforced by the society.
Growing up I always read that men found women with makeup unattractive. However, this notion is now changing. All the recent studies on makeup find out that women who wear makeup and all their peers find them more attractive when they are wearing makeup.
So, individuals rank themselves over attractive when wearing makeup and under attractive without which is why they feel more confident when they are wearing makeup.
Women who wear makeup on a regular basis are women who believe in the beautifying effect of cosmetics.

What can makeup do for you?
We all know that it can cover up blemishes, enhance eye colour, or brighten up features of your face. But more than that it makes you look happier and healthier. In some studies, it has even been related to greater earning potential and finding more prestigious jobs.

Is there any harm in it?
A Research found that positive relationships were established between cosmetic usage and “anxiety, self-consciousness, introversion, conformity, and self-presentation” and that negative relationships were found between cosmetic usage and “extroversion, social confidence, emotional stability, self-esteem, physical attractiveness, and intellectual complexity”.
A woman’s anxiety can come from hundreds of sources; beauty advertisements, peer pressure, innate feelings of insecurity, etc. It has been found that overall the beauty industry has a negative effect on a woman’s self-esteem, body image, and perception of beauty. By using upward comparisons, women are constantly comparing themselves to standards of beauty that society shows to them.

The beauty industries influence on women in the society:
The effect that advertising in the fashion and beauty industry has on women has been well established by research. By creating advertisements with unrealistic images of beauty, it has resulted in anxiety, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence in many women. Most of these negative emotions stem from unhappiness among body and appearance.

Is it fight against traditional roles or is it conforming to it?
The patriarchal domination of traditional society has not only defined our position as the one who stays inside the house, but it also implies a complete subordination of the woman’s body to the man, for example, the requirement for a woman to remain a virgin until married, bear children and to devote her life to the care of her children and so on.
Appearance (and especially an appearance that has been created by working to improve the body by means of makeup, diets or plastic surgery) is a matter of etiquette in some societies such as the Koreans where having plastic surgery is like the use of luxury products.
Associating use of beauty products to self confidence and having freedom is also to an extent debatable. As certain cultural and social standards of beauty and the perceived rewards for being physically attractive have pressured more and more women to apply cosmetics to change their appearance in order to conform to idealised social and cultural beauty standards and expectations. We might actually still be conforming to what others think rather than what we think. This can be backed by researchers have found out that women who identify with more traditional roles are more likely to apply cosmetics to achieve beauty.

What you need to know:

Sun and ageing:
The sunlight is comprised of various UV radiations with the most important being UVA and UVB. Most of the damage caused to the skin is actually due to sun than that of other external factors and age. The very basic thing to know for skin care would be using cream with higher sun protection factor (SPF) to protect you from UVB lights that cause burning of the skin and also a product that contains five-star rating for protection against UVA, that actually causes ageing. UVB is also responsible for Vitamin D manufacturing so depending upon skin colour you would need a little sun exposure to get that supply (in the absence of sunscreen).

This is becoming a mass market for rich people these days and other ageing women like myself who will buy products off the shelf if it claims to be anti-wrinkle. So from the little research that I have done I digged a little deeper on Botox where tretinoin is injected into the skin and has alongside anti-wrinkle properties other side effects that I will not be talking about here.
But if you want to buy something off the shelf then you might want to look for products that contain Retinol or other peptides known to do the same. Point being, don’t just buy a product for its claims. Do your due diligence about the ingredients and their positive and negative side effects.
Cosmetic products can contain more than 10,000 ingredients which can be linked to many diseases like cancer, birth defects, developmental and reproductive impairments. Because of that, US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) banned nine ingredients including coal tar colors, formaldehyde, glycol ethers, lead, mercury, parabens, phenylenediamine, and phthalates in cosmetic products and there are strict regulations in Europe as well but it may not be true for many international products and therefore you must read about it before you buy it.

Seductive Promises:
Anti-wrinkle, anti-ageing, radiant, active ingredients, clinically proven and dermatologically tested are amongst many a promises and scientific evidence that I will clearly buy a product for. But these claims are not as seductive as they seem. Clinically proven could mean 1% to 100% results, with the lower not making any visible difference to anyone’s life.
Dermatologically tested: This claim can be made even if it was ever tested on the skin of an individual.
Active Ingredients: This can be inferred based on an in vitro test done in labs in various machines
Radiant, glowing, rested are all claims that realistically are impossible to achieve as well. But like many others when I see these words on a product, I do fall for it.

Looks or behaviour?

The self-discrepancy theory where you keep comparing your actual self to the ideal self very often makes you ignore your attractiveness and focuses on the flaws in your looks or body instead.
While it is absolute spectacle to look beautiful, it is your personality that matters in the longer run i.e. you might be the most beautiful person in the room but if your behaviour is not right then that appearance will not be of much use. So despite working on your appearance work on your inner self, your morals and your personality as well which then brings me back to my own favourite narrative that before looking pretty learn to be comfortable in your own skin.


Annex I

Know your skin

With a weight of about 4Kg and a surface area of about 1.8m2, skin is widest organ of an organism. Although its constitution is approximately the same, it undergoes notable variation such as its thickness enabling skin to have a perfect functional adaptation. Variations can also be associated with age, ethnic group, gender, or anatomic sites.
We all know that skin is mainly intended to protect human beings against physical or chemical external aggression and also against internal organic loss. The external hydrolipidic protective film (of the epidermis) called stratum corneum must be functionalised by ensuring moisturization -water is the keratin plasticizer-. The underlying epidermis ensures functional and continuous regeneration of the surface state (keratogenesis) and skin pigmentation (melanogenesis). Followed by dermis that is responsible for coherence, elasticity and thermos regulation of the whole skin and hypodermis that has protective and reserve function. Based on the water and hyrolipidic content of the film, you can end up having different skin types e.g. excess lepidic content


Nash, R., Fieldman, G., Hussey, T., Lévêque, J., & Pineau, P. (2006). Cosmetics: They Influence More Than Caucasian Female Facial Attractiveness. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36(2), 493 -504.

Robertson, J., Fieldman, G., & Hussey, T. (2008). ‘Who wears cosmetics?’ Individual differences and their relationship with cosmetic usage. Individual Differences Research, 6(1), 38-56

Cash, T. F., Dawson, K., Davis, P., & Bowen, M. (1989). Effects of cosmetics use on the physical attractiveness and body image of American college women. The Journal of Social
Psychology, 129(3), 349-355.

Ullah H, Noreen S, Rehman A, Waseem A, Zubair S, Adnan M, Ahmad I (2013) Comparative study of heavy metals content in cosmetic products of different countries marketed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan Arabian J Chem.

Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, Fourth Edition, edited by André O. Barel, Marc Paye, Howard I. Maibach



What does dowry mean? Jahez or Mehr….

Written and Narrated by: Rabia Nazir

The literal meaning of dowry stands as ‘gift or present’. In a south-Asian society, dowry is referred to as a collection of household items, jewellery, and cash given as gift to the bride by her family at the time of marriage. Happily or unhappily, changing its form from time to time, dowry is in practice in almost all social strata of Pakistan commonly known as ‘Jahez’. Jahez has been adopted from pre-partition times in subcontinent when Muslims and Hindu used to live together in an integrated society. In Hinduism, the custom of dowry emerged due to the lack of inheritance rights of women. Hence dowry at the time of marriage could be thought of financial security to the bride while preventing the division of family assets. As I have discussed the inheritance right for women in Islam in my previous article, it clearly makes no sense of jahez in the name of ‘dowry’ according to Islamic teachings.

Quran has frequently used the word of ‘dower’ while laying out the matters on family life. Let’s see what does it mean? Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And give the women their dowries with a good heart…” [4:4]

“…All others have been made lawful for you provided you seek (them in marriage) with your property…” [4:24]

These verses from Quran refer to ‘mehr’ as ‘dowry’ given to the bride from the groom. Mehr solely belongs to her and at her disposal. It does not belong to her guardians, husband and anyone else unless she willingly foregoes it. I have come across a misconception from people who interpret ‘dowry’ as ‘jahez’. They refer to the event of marriage of Hazrat Fatima (R.A), the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) when she was given basic household items including cooking utensils and mattresses etc. A little deeper study about the household of Prophet (P.B.U.H) makes it clear that the modest dowry of Hazrat Fatima (R.A) was purchased with the money that Hazrat Ali (R.A) offered as ‘mehr’ by selling his only sword to Hazrat Usman (R.A). It surely did not cost anything to Prophet Mohammad (P.B.BU.H).

The craze of ‘Instagram weddings’ is increasing as ever with enormous amount of money wasted on designer dresses, venues, photography and so on! The average cost of a reasonably ‘OK’ wedding in Pakistan may range anywhere 1,500,000 – 3,000,000 PKR. The most loving and caring parents on earth perceive the weddings of their children as one of the most financially challenging events in their lives. For a working couple, sometimes the cost of wedding exceeds their own annual income and even the average per capita income of our developing homeland. I have been curious to understand the reason behind this craze, so I decided to have an informal discussion around my acquaintances. Surprisingly, hardly any man supported the highly budgeted week-long series of celebrations whereas much to my disappointment these are the ladies who are pushing the boundaries. Almost every girl dreams of a fancy wedding from very early age but it has not been of any benefit in future. This has now slowly been turned into unspoken expectations and shameless demands from both sides of families which often lead to distance and frustration in the life of newly wedded couple afterwards.

I am sorry to say that we women themselves are playing a vital role in their own exploitation. We are to remind ourselves that our religion has granted enormous dignity to the woman who should not be traded-off like an object in the exchange of valuables. I am sure that we all love to be desired and respected in our relationships. Let me please include myself too to say that our worth cannot be calculated by the number of ‘thumbs-up’ for how exclusive was the ceremony. Please support your fathers, brothers, and life partners to say ‘NO’ to big-fat desi weddings. I wish everyone of you realise your real worth!!!



Sexual Violence against Children

Written by: Huma Khan

Narrated by: Fozia Tahir

Zainab Ansari, a 7 year old child was on her way to Quran recitation classes in Kasur,
Pakistan, when she was abducted, raped, strangled and left in a dumpster. Her body was
discovered on the 9th January 2018. Autopsy has yielded that she was most likely held in captivity, where she was tortured. Criminal proceedings are underway and someone has yet to be charged for this. [update: The culprit has now been arrested]
Child sexual abuse is a horrific reality of the society we live in and Zainab’s case is just one of the few most recent reminders of this. Today’s podcast will focus on definitions, the extent of the problem, signs exhibited by children and further complications secondary to the abuse as well as a brief reflection on prevention and control strategies.
Child sexual has differing dynamics to those of adult sexual abuse in many parameters
ranging from disclosure differences to the symptoms exhibited. Lets begin by defining the problem. The World Health Organisation’s definition of child sexual abuse is:
 The involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend
 Is unable to give informed consent to
 For which the child is not developmentally prepared for
 Or that violates the laws or social taboos of a society
Sexual abuse in the case of minors is evidenced by any of the above activity between a child and an adult, or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of
responsibility, trust or power with the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other people. This may include but is not limited to activities like “intercourse, attempted intercourse, oral-genital contact, fondling of genitals directly or through clothing, exhibitionism or exposing children to adult sexual activity or pornography, and the use of the child for prostitution or pornography.”
It is a challenging task to find out the actual number of sexually victimized children due to the fact that the prevalence reported varies across studies and data sources. The WHO in 2002 estimated that 73 million boys and 150 million girls under the age of 18 years had
experienced various forms of sexual violence. A meta-analysis conducted in the year 2009 analysed 65 studies in 22 countries and estimated an “overall international figure.” The main findings of the study were:
 An estimated 7.9% of males and 19.7% of females universally faced sexual abuse
before the age of 18 years
 The highest prevalence rate of CSA was seen in Africa (34.4%)
 Europe, America, and Asia had prevalence rate of 9.2%, 10.1%, and 23.9%,
CSA has found to be associated with physical abuse at both younger and older ages and alone is accountable for about one per cent of the global burden of disease, but it is likely to be a risk factor for several other conditions like alcohol consumption, illegal drug usage, development of mental disorders, and spread of sexually transmitted diseases, which when pooled, are accountable for over 20% of the global burden.

India has a huge problem of child sexual abuse, in fact, it is home to 19% of the world’s
children as well as home to the worlds largest number of abused children. For every
155th minute a child, less than 16 years is raped, for every 13th hour child under 10, and one in every 10 children sexually abused at any point of time. Studies propose that over 7,200 children, including infants, are raped every year and it is believed that several cases go unreported. It is estimated by the government that 40% of India’s children are susceptible to threats like being homeless, trafficking, drug abuse, forced labour, and crime.

United Kingdom
It would be false to believe that the problem exists in poor and developing countries only.
Unfortunately, child sexual abuse is found across international borders as well delving deep within all socioeconomic boundaries.
 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused
 54,000 sexual offences against children recorded in 2015/6
 Over 90% of the abused children’s perpetrator was someone they knew
 Over 2900 children were identified as needing protection from sexual abuse in 2015

Risk factors
Risk factors have been identified, which can make children more vulnerable to abuse. These include:
1. Unaccompanied children
2. Children in foster or adopted care
3. Physically or mentally less abled children
4. Poverty
5. Armed conflict
6. Social isolation
7. Dysfunctional family life e.g. alcohol, drug dependency

Health consequences
The aftermath of child sexual abuse includes physical and mental complications. The
physical issues range from genital injury, genital discharge, bedwetting/soiling, anal
complaints (e.g. fissures, pain, bleeding), UTIs and STIs. Psychological and behavioural
issues can include behavioural regression, delayed developmental milestones, sleep
disturbances, depression, PTSD, poor self-esteem and/or inappropriate sexualised behaviours.
So what is the cause of the problem? Child sexual abuse is multi-dimensional in its cause and complexity, however, cultural and social norms supporting violence are a major issue. These can include the following:

a. Sexual violence being an acceptable way of punishment/power assertion
b. Sexual activity (including rape) being a marker of masculinity
c. Sex and sexuality being taboo as well as shameful for the victim, thus preventing
d. Perpetrators having had a history of longstanding sexual abuse
Prevention and control of child sexual abuse
Management of victims of sexual abuse is also, therefore, quite complex and
multidimensional. It is important to remember, however, that sexual abuse is preventable and there are a number of steps that can be taken to keeping children safe. On individual levels this includes giving safe spaces to children (online and offline), equipping adults with knowledge and understanding to take action and empowering children to speak out about sexual abuse.
For children already having a history of abuse, there needs to be adequate support. This
includes the treatment of physical injuries, STI treatment, HIV prophylaxis, long term
counselling and/or psycho-educational intervention. Similarly, the frontline health staff need training in order to pick up the signs of sexual abuse, ask about it in a non-threatening setting and be competent enough to carry out the basic investigations and treatment. Disclosure in children is a multi step process and often is not easy for them to narrate. The health and forensic services must therefore work hand in hand to allow for sensitive information to be gathered from the child.
Education is a key element of control and prevention of child sexual abuse. The learning is imperative for children and families. The children need to be taught in safe environments, which touching and other behaviours are inappropriate and who to report to. They need to be reassured and mentally equipped so that they have a safe person with whom they can communicate.
Implementation of laws and policies is another minefield, which has to be taken into
consideration. Control and prevention of abuse cannot work if the laws and policies are not in place, and if society as a whole does not believe in the legal enforceability of these.

1. Guidelines for medico-legal care for victims of sexual abuse. World Health
2. Changing social and cultural norms that support violence. World Health
3. Child sexual abuse. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. abuse-and- neglect/child-sexual-
4. Singh et al. An epidemiological overview of child sexual abuse. J Family Med Prim
Care 2014; 3(4): 430-435.
5. Wihbey J. Global prevalence of child sexual abuse. Journalist Resource. child-sexual- abuse.


A Fair Deal

Written and narrated by: Rabia Nazir

The act of inheritance has a long history in human race and is also not spare from the effect of religion. The laws of inheritance are diverse round the globe due to cultural and religious influences. For instance, In the Old Testament (Torah) it is said,

“Therefore, tell the Israelites; if a man dies without leaving a son, you shall let his heritage pass on to his daughter; if he has no daughter, you shall give his heritage to his brothers; if he has no brothers, you shall give his heritage to his father’s brothers; if his father had no brothers, you shall give his heritage to his nearest relative in his clan who shall then take possession of it.” (Numbers 27, 8-11)

Unlike other religions, a Muslim can generally do whatever he wants with his wealth during his life but his will have certain restrictions according to Islamic Law. In continuation of my series of podcasts about general misunderstandings about the ‘financial standing of a Muslim women’, today I am opening up the debate on the practices in our society regarding the inheritance rights of women. A great beauty of our religion is that woman ‘inherits’ and is also entitled to receive share from the property of her close male relatives such as father, husband etc. The Islamic laws of inheritance for women has also been clearly laid out in Surah Al Nisa:

(Allah commands you as regard to your children’s (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal to that of two females. [4:11]

Here, I shall also refer to an incident from the life of the companion Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas who was a wealthy man and had only one daughter. He was on death-bed and requested to bequest most of his wealth as charity, or a half of it. The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) forbade him and only allowed him to give a third, and said:

“A third and a third is a lot, and it is better that you leave your heirs wealthy rather than leave them needy begging from the people. You will not spend anything seeking Allah’s countenance, but you receive a reward for that expenditure, even the morsel of food you put into your wife’s mouth.” [Bukhari #2591 & Muslim #1628]

As a general principle daughter have a right to half the share of their brothers or 2/3 if there are no brother/s with further differences depending on the configuration of the family and depending on the sect. Family law has been amended to favour and recognize women’s inheritance rights even if this is in conflict with social practices. The Constitution of 1973 broadly speaking also protects women’s inheritance and the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act, 2011 specifically prohibits women’s disinheritance with section 498 A (Prohibition of depriving woman from inheriting properly) and 498 C (Prohibition of marriage with the Holy Quran). However, inheritance rights though present in white and black are often denied due to socio-cultural practices. One of World Bank’s report on gender gap between policy and practice with respect to family law in Pakistan has shown that only 5% of women own a piece of land as compared to 45% of men in the possession of land.

The most common belief I have seen is that ‘dowry is the substitute or at least a part of the inheritance’ for a girl. The concept of dowry itself needs a separate discussion and I shall come to that in a later script.  I believe that we all have witnessed one of those high-budget wedding ceremonies at some point where a great deal of money is spent on a series of unnecessary formalities. For a middle-class family with two or three daughters, it is a heavy financial burden on earning hands to get them married even in a respectable manner. However, fear of being looked down upon by the society is the driving force to become a part of this practice.

Now, the other side of the coin shows an entirely different story. The girls who were once a part of well-established families and were married off like princesses were denied of their inheritance rights later. This is usually done by close male relatives from her own family including brothers, cousins or other male relatives. Because a Muslim woman is also entitled for a share in her deceased husband’s property, I have seen widows struggling with life due to denial of their inheritance rights by their husband’s families. If, unfortunately, she is not educated or skilled enough to support herself, how would she survive?

Our society is full of sealed lips who are deprived of their justified rights. These are lips of ‘happily married’ women who are afraid of speaking for inheritance because they may lose family-ties with their parental families in the time of need. They are silent to keep up appearances because it can jeopardize her relations with her in-laws who would tease her for having no respectful place in her father’s family. Getting legal advice and help from court is also a matter of shame and disrespect for them and their families.

I want to put this question forward that if it is ‘OK’ to spend loads of money on wedding in which clearly there is no financial security for the bride why is it not ‘OK’ for her to receive a legitimate share from the property of her father which will put her in a much more secure financial status?

It is perfectly fine to spend money on wedding if someone can happily afford it, however it should not be done with the expectation of ‘dismissing’ the inheritance rights of the bride. ‘Dowry is an option’ whereas ‘Inheritance is a right’. Let’s not substitute the ‘inheritance’ with ‘dowry’, lets replace ‘dowry’ with ‘inheritance’ and give our daughters and sisters a secure future. Household items given in the name of dowry will not support her on a rainy day, but a small piece of land will! Isn’t it a fair deal?