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God should give daughters to rich families only: attitudes towards childbearing among low-income women in Punjab, Pakistan


  • Winkvist, Anna
  • Akhtar, Humaira Zareen


We evaluated perceptions and experiences of bearing sons and daughters among 42 women in Punjab, Pakistan, with special emphasis on son preference, changes in women's status within the marital family and resulting health effects. Data were collected through repeated, in-depth interviews in Urdu or Punjabi in an urban area in Lahore and a village 40 km. outside of Lahore. For triangulation purposes, four focus group discussions were performed with additional women, as well as in-depth interviews with eight mothers-in-law, three traditional practitioners and three medical practitioners. In general, these women felt that they had limited control over their lives, and this was exemplified by early marriages, high expectations on newly wed women to conceive and poor access to contraceptives. Women frequently expressed a strong preference for sons, mostly for economic reasons, reflecting women's subordinate position in society and the low economic value placed on women's work. Mothers of sons mainly discussed health problems during pregnancy and health effects of repeated childbearing. Mothers of daughters and women without children spoke of harassment in the family as well as in society. The results should be of importance in the public health planning in Pakistan as well as for those engaged in women's health issues internationally.

Suggested Citation

  • Winkvist, Anna & Akhtar, Humaira Zareen, 2000. "God should give daughters to rich families only: attitudes towards childbearing among low-income women in Punjab, Pakistan," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 73-81, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:51:y:2000:i:1:p:73-81

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    Cited by:

    1. Ahmad, Nuzhat & Khan, Huma, 2016. "Measuring women’s disempowerment in agriculture in Pakistan:," IFPRI discussion papers 1512, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Mumtaz, Zubia & Levay, Adrienne & Bhatti, Afshan & Salway, Sarah, 2013. "Signalling, status and inequities in maternal healthcare use in Punjab, Pakistan," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 98-105.
    3. Nuzhat Ahmad & Huma Khan, 2016. "Measuring Women’s Disempowerment in Agriculture in Pakistan," Working Papers id:10150, eSocialSciences.
    4. Social Policy and Population Section, Social Development Division, ESCAP., 2003. "Asia-Pacific Population Journal Volume 18, No. 1," Asia-Pacific Population Journal, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), vol. 18(1), pages 1-78, November.
    5. Mumtaz, Zubia & Salway, Sarah & Nykiforuk, Candace & Bhatti, Afshan & Ataullahjan, Anushka & Ayyalasomayajula, Bharati, 2013. "The role of social geography on Lady Health Workers' mobility and effectiveness in Pakistan," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 48-57.
    6. Puri, Sunita & Adams, Vincanne & Ivey, Susan & Nachtigall, Robert D., 2011. ""There is such a thing as too many daughters, but not too many sons": A qualitative study of son preference and fetal sex selection among Indian immigrants in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(7), pages 1169-1176, April.


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