85,000 female doctors have opted out of the profession after receiving medical education in Pakistan.
Federal Minister for Science & Technology Fawad Chaudhry, while sharing the disheartening statistics, labeled it as an act of criminal level for women to usurp the medical seats from other deserving candidates and receive medical education that is subsidized by the state to eventually abandon the profession for other interests.
According to experts, if only 50% of these out-of-practice female doctors are mobilized, 70% of the health issues being faced by people in low-income group communities can be resolved.
In Pakistan, 80% of the enrollments in medical colleges are of women. It happened for the first time in 2004 that more women than men registered to practice with the PMDC, after centuries of male dominance. Where these flipped stats should have been a source of pride, they turned out to be the exact opposite; over 50% of these women doctors do not go on to work!
One ridiculous reason is marriage! A doctor bahu makes a good ‘catch’.
Pakistan’s health sector is in dire straits, yet women doctors continue to choose medicine only to be good matches in marriage. Shame on women doctors indeed!
That has been the narrative for the longest time.
It is true that desi women and men find it an achievement to “score” a daughter-in-law and wife, respectively, that is a doctor, which drives parents to encourage their daughters to enter this field; and at times even motivates girls to willingly choose the degree to land a prestigious social status, and eventually better marital prospects.
But is this the entire truth?
How come whenever the issue is raised, there is no conversation about these women being barred from working either by their conservative families or in-laws or insecure husbands. They only see these doctor brides as trophy wives that are meant to be kept at home for chores, or displayed at social gatherings as a ‘win’.
Actress Armeena Khan, who has always been vocal about women’s issues tweeted on the matter. She highlighted the complete picture and placed blame where it deserved to be placed. Mentioning the 85,000 figure of non-working female doctors, she said: “This is because A: To secure a better marriage proposal. B: Wives are barred from working by their insecure husbands.”
Armeena further went on to remind us that in Pakistan, even in this day and age many women are not free to make career decisions. She lashed at those that hinder female doctors’ progress and demanded that they compensate for the state’s loss in financing these girl’s education.
For a society that has patriarchy embroidered in its very core, it is surprising that the second reason stated by Armeena, clearly the more obvious one, was unable to catch limelight after the debate over non-working female doctors sparked.