Attitude towards gender roles and violence against women and girls (VAWG): baseline findings from an RCT of 1752 youths in Pakistan.
BACKGROUND Pakistan is a patriarchal society where men are the primary authority figures and women are subordinate. This has serious implications on women's and men's life prospects. OBJECTIVE The aim was to explore current gender roles in urban Pakistan, how these are reproduced and maintained and influence men's and women's life circumstances. DESIGN Five focus group discussions were conducted, including 28 women representing employed, unemployed, educated and uneducated women from different socio-economic strata. Manifest and latent content analyses were applied. FINDINGS TWO MAJOR THEMES EMERGED DURING ANALYSIS: 'Reiteration of gender roles' and 'Agents of change'. The first theme included perceptions of traditional gender roles and how these preserve women's subordination. The power gradient, with men holding a superior position in relation to women, distinctive features in the culture and the role of the extended family were considered to interact to suppress women. The second theme included agents of change, where the role of education was prominent as well as the role of mass media. It was further emphasised that the younger generation was more positive to modernisation of gender roles than the elder generation. CONCLUSIONS This study reveals serious gender inequalities and human rights violations against women in the Pakistani society. The unequal gender roles were perceived as static and enforced by structures imbedded in society. Women routinely faced serious restrictions and limitations of autonomy. However, attainment of higher levels of education especially not only for women but also for men was viewed as an agent towards change. Furthermore, mass media was perceived as having a positive role to play in supporting women's empowerment.