Women’s Role in Domestic Decision-Making in Pakistan: Implications for Reproductive Behaviour.

Women’s involvement in domestic decision-making is recognised as a distinct aspect of their autonomy with implications for reproductive behaviour. Using data from the Pakistan Fertility and Family Planning Survey 1996-97, this study examines the extent of Pakistani women’s participation in household decision-making relative to their husbands and other family members, and determines its effects on the demand for children and contraceptive use in both urban and rural settings. The findings reveal that women’s decision-making authority is clearly related to the context in which they live, as urban women have a say in household matters, almost equal to their husbands’, whereas most rural women report that their husbands and other family members have a predominant role in household decisions with regard to seeking medical treatment for a sick child or to make purchases of household items. The results also indicate that women with greater freedom to go outside home alone are also more likely to participate in domestic decisions, and the linkage is stronger for rural than for urban women. The multivariate analysis reveals that the effect of decision-making variables on measures of reproductive behaviour is strongly, conditioned by socio-economic and demographic factors, implying that measures of women’s empowerment give only a partial explanation of the likelihood of women’s desire to have fewer children and to increase contraceptive use. The results suggest that Pakistani women’s enhanced role in household decision-making has an effect on achieving gender equality and fertility reduction outcomes–goals that are central to population and development policy. INTRODUCTION

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