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Global Healthbeat: Pakistan - The World Mourns Benazir Bhutto

Multiple trauma - a bullet to the neck, head injuries, shrapnel wounds from a suicide bomb detonated caused the death of former Prime Minister Bhutto of Pakistan. Educated at Harvard, she was the first female elected head of a Muslim state and campaigned for the rights and welfare of women. She had returned from exile to speak out for Pakistanis living in poverty and to fight for their freedom. In a country of 160 million people it is estimated that one third live below the poverty line.

Low levels of female literacy and a high maternal mortality rate are indicators of the reduced status of women in Pakistan. Poor reading ability and poor health are clearly related. Hygiene, sanitation, nutrition, food and clean water supplies - the basics for supporting life and health - are still not in place for most Pakistanis. 90% of Pakistani households are headed by males and the remaining 10% are extremely impoverished.

But the outright murder of women in Pakistan has been reported in the Western press for seven years now - in documentaries like Murder in Purdah and License to Kill.
According to reports in the BBC news, women are imprisoned, traded in marriage, murdered for breaking with religious traditions - and these activities are sanctioned by state institutions. Honor killings - including those of mothers by their teenage sons, daughters by their fathers, wives by their husbands - have been given state sanction as a means of social control and a deterrent to sexual immorality. A leading Pakistani Islamic scholar expains that sexual "immorality" is considered a worse crime than murder.

In the first 7 months of 2004, 151 Pakistani women were gang-raped and 176 were victims of honor killings. Almost 50% of women in jails in Pakistan are awaiting trail for suspected adultery. Yesterday, a talented, intelligent woman was murdered in Pakistan.

Merci Christiane Michaud for use of photo A sad day...Madame Bhutto.
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