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Women, Healthcare, and Violence in Pakistan

Sara Rizvi Jafree

Seeking to explore the plight of female healthcare practitioners in the country, Sara Rizvi Jafree’s Women, Healthcare, and Violence in Pakistan is an examination of the South Asian cultural approach towards the traditional and historical working woman, particularly the healthcare professional. The book describes the laws that protect or harm such women in the workplace, and the real perils of physical and verbal harassment that they face during their service. Imbued with deep insights into the role of women in Islam, their socialization and the threats to healthcare professionals like nurses, doctors, and lady health workers, this book presents anecdotes based on ethnographic research and factual knowledge which makes it an impressive resource for understanding this social issue. Exploring the perpetration of brutality through victims’ testimonies, the author successfully paints a panorama on the theme of workplace cruelty, an important factor in the current discourse in Pakistan on this issue.

Author Description

Sara Rizvi Jafree is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at the Forman Christian College (FCC), Lahore. She has published multiple articles concerning women and healthcare in Pakistan including ‘Ethical violations in the clinical setting: The hidden curriculum learning experience of Pakistani nurses’ and ‘Maternal employment in Pakistan: Socio-demographic shortfalls and association with birth weight’.

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PKR 950
In stock
More Information
ISBN 9780199406067
Weight in kg 0.455
Rights World
Year of Publication 2017
Binding Hardback
Pages 292 pages

Dr Jafree's book is an important contribution to the issue of gender and violence. While a number of studies have already been devote to domestic violence, honor killings and others, she provides a groundbreaking study about a new field where patriarchal-originated violence works: that of health working places. She carefully examines the broader issue of how patriarchal domination has enclosed women in a discourse of pride and honor, contradicting in many ways, what she calls "the concept of the 'ideal' Pakistani woman" (p. 65). In relation with the topic, it is also important to pay tribute to Dr Jafree's courage, since one can think she should have faced some difficulties when she was conducting her interviews and fieldwork. Despite this, she follows an impeccable sociological method to give a detailed analysis on the conditions, and the sufferings, the health working woman are coming through. Also, it is noteworthy to add that Dr Jafree's work is a living evidence how the Pakistan society is reflexive, and it is sure that this book will be followed by a real improvement regarding the dealt issue. Thus I warmly recommend the reading of Dr Jafree's book.

-Prof. Dr. Michel Boivin;
Director, Centre for South Asian Studies,
School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences,
Paris Research University

As a fellow Formanite, I am delighted to read Dr Jafree's innovative study which gives voice to the women of the Pakistani healthcare sector who have faced horrific violence in the workplace, ironically in jobs where the mission is to help others. For too long women in our society have been forced to live at the mercy of the patriarchy, often prohibited from pursuing careers of their own and often assaulted by male colleagues whenever such work is attempted. If we are to live up to our Islamic values as a society, we must begin treating women with the dignity and respect called for in the Quran and by our shared humanity, not just in the workplace, but in all aspects of life. May Dr Jafree continue her valiant fight to stand up for the women of Pakistan.

-Ambassador Dr Akbar Ahmed,
Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies,
American University, Washington, DC

This book opens up - for a British reader - a world which is too often obscured by an unfortunate mixture of stereotyping and comfortable assumptions. We ( and by that I mean many people in the UK) often assume that providing health care outside the global north is a straightforward matter of training more personnel and building more hospitals. Both of these assumptions express excellent aspirations and aspirations that very few people would quarrel with. Of course we need to train more people to improve the health of many countries but doing that, as this book sets out, is a great deal more complicated .The author carefully sets out the many existing problems within the current system of health care in Pakistan and in doing so encourages us to see that policies organized around the simple idea of ‘more of’ do not always engage with patterns of exploitation and prejudice.

That these patterns exist, and are a complex mix of colonial and local history, is made clear in this study. What comes across particularly clearly are the many forms of harassment that women who work across the health care system encounter. Not the least of these is the battle that women, at all levels of work in the health care system face, for the recognition and validation of their work. We have to keep on making the case for the equal value of the work which women do: a woman (whether a doctor or a ward orderly) is of much value, and demands as much respect as a man.

But within this pattern of discrimination about the work of women in health care lies another, more intractable issue, that has to be faced : that the health, and the care of the health, of women is as important is that of men. Care and caring are one side of the health system, the evaluation of what constitutes ‘health’ is the other. So in that there is no reason why we should regard it as ‘natural’ if a woman becomes exhausted by child bearing or that she does not have the same autonomy over her health, and its treatment, as men.

This is a book which should be widely read …and then considered and acted upon. Yes, it is a book for the classroom but it should then make its way into the practice of medicine.

- Prof. Dr Mary Evans
London School of Economic and Political Science (LSE),
Centennial Professor at the Department of Gender Studies

It is important that researchers like Dr Jafree are highlighting the crimes faced by women healthcare workers in the country. We need to be united as a community to make our workplaces, homes, and public spaces safer for women, children and other minorities.

-Mr Mirza Shahid Saleem Baig,
Inspector General Police, Punjab, Pakistan

This book raises the extremely important issue of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, focusing particularly on women employed in the healthcare profession. The author has combined in-depth quantitative and qualitative research methods in order to produce a comprehensive account of the challenges faced by women in this profession. She not only highlights the problems in this field, but also provides recommendations for improving the working conditions of women healthcare professionals and justice for victims of violence. It is a must-read for policy makers, health care professionals, and students of organisational behaviour and gender studies.

-Dr Nida Kirmani, Associate Professor of Sociology,
Lahore University of Management Sciences,
Faculty Director of the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative

After I failed to get a medical job at a hospital in the North of England, I was told out loud, by men who think it perfectly reasonable to say these things:

1. Your voice is a octave too high;

2. Men like working with men;

3. You're too feminine.

Wasn't that long ago! I believe it’s a miracle I ever succeeded. But globally, women and girls suffer FAR more. Let’s face it- the world is far from a happy place for countless working women. I recommend reading this book by Sara Rizvi Jafree, which is well referenced & shockingly, completely believable! Attitudes to female healthcare workers are appalling and distressing. We need to support such material to honor and recognize the suffering and struggle of female healthcare practitioners.

-Dr Judith Hall, Professor of Anaesthetics,
Intensive Care and Pain Medicine, Cardiff University,
Leader for the Phoenix Project (tackles poverty and promotes health),
Founder of Critical Care Alliance and the Mothers of Africa charity


Sara Rizvi Jafree appears to be a voice for women health practitioners experiencing culture of violence against them. In her publication titled Women, Health Care and Violence in Pakistan, Jafree has succinctly documented the prevalent harassment, bullying, and abuse of female health workers with empirical evidence drawn both from quantitative and qualitative data. Only few of the victims have been found to be the brave fighters against the perpetrators, while for a substantial proportion of them the suffering remained unreported. The author has picked up a very sensitive issue and has very successfully dived into the hidden intricacies of the exploitative currents in the systemic power relations. This publication is an excellent addition to the body of knowledge and has it its own significance in the area of applied research for taking steps to fight the menace and making the work environment of female health practitioners congenial.

-Prof Dr Muhammad Anwar, Professor Emeritus and ex-Chairperson,
Institute of Social and Cultural Studies,
University of the Punjab, Lahore

Research for the health and social sciences; this book coud be a required reading for all graduate students of health policy and also of gender studies.


- Dr Kausar S. Khan, Associate Professor,
Department of Community Health Sciences, Pakistan,
Aga Khan University, Karachi

In this publication, the author endeavors to describe and ascertain workplace violence against women healthcare workers. It is a valuable resource for scholars and policy makers; and especially serves to highlight the abuse faced by lady healthcare workers and other female community workers in Pakistan.


- Dr Hafiz Asim Hussain, District Coordinator,
Integrated Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Health & Nutrition Program (IRMNCH), Lahore

Dr Jafree bravely highlights the multiple issues and crimes faced by healthcare workers, paying particular attention to women healthcare workers in Pakistan. The findings from her research conducted for this book magnifies issues such as these, as otherwise they usually get brushed under the carpet. This book empowers women to whistle blow and to call out any bad behavior and injustice towards them. We need more publications such as these to support women to foster a unified approach and encourage women in healthcare to have a voice. It’s now or never- We need to come together as a community to make our working and personal environment safer for the vulnerable. A very important and commendable piece of work by Dr Jafree.

- Nadia Bukhari, PhD Scholar, Pharmacist & Lecturer University College London (UCL), London,
Ambassador for Pakistan Girls' Education charity (supported by the Government of Pakistan),
Advisor to the Commonwealth Pharmacists Association,
Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society,
Board Member National Pharmacy Board for England

 Dr Jafree's insightful book clearly tackles an important and challenging issue. As women's role in public and private life undergoes seismic shifts, in our increasingly interconnected world, this book is particularly salient for its universal messages. Dr Jafree situates the current paradigm that women face in healthcare within a historical narrative and subsequently offers solutions to the existing challenges. She straddles academic-thinking and policy-driven work; making her book unique in its appeal. I hope her well-researched analysis inspires policy-makers to tackle systemic violence. Dr Jafree must be congratulated on this brave and valuable offering.

- Dr Deepti Sastry,
Head of Monitoring and Evaluation,
Aktis Strategy Consulting
(A global consulting firm specializing in development, stabilization, and governance for regions affected by conflict

Dr Sara Rizvi Jafree has given voice to millions of females who experience different forms of harassment and violence in their daily lives. This book very skillfully sheds light on women's role in a public and private sector. Narratives are presented in a way so as to place the reader into the actual setting. Food for thought is provided for the scholars and policy makers. I congratulate Dr Jafree for this brilliantly written book.

- Dr Masha Asad Khan,
Associate Professor,
Kinnaird College for Women,
Clinical Psychologist,
Researcher and Publisher in areas of Gender and Mental Health

 A valuable and informative work which provides a comprehensive exposition of the risks faced by women health care professionals in Pakistan and the contributing factors. Dr Jafree also raises awareness of the knock on impact on patient care and concludes with a constructive action plan for resolving the highlighted issues

- Dr Fionnuala Gormley,
PhD Quantitative Finance,
Quantitative Analyst at Credit Suisse
London, UK

Dr Sara Rizvi Jafree has no doubt contributed towards the subject of women studies and a vital aspect of the Pakistani society. In her well researched and sufficiently documented book, she takes great pain to explain the difficulties faced by working women– their challenges, constraints and remedies. Her focus being on the abuse of an important element of our society – the women health workers. This remains a unique and neglected subject in our research, which Dr Sara very diligently explores with the assistance of detailed quantitative and qualitative research methodology. She has done a great service to otherwise “voiceless” and ignored section of our workforce, on which stands the entire fabric of Pakistan’s health system. This book, I am convinced will become a guiding force for the practitioners, as well as for those who are keen to improve the professionalism of Pakistan’s women population.

- Prof. Dr Farooq Hasnat, Professor Political Science, FCC-U;
Author of four books, including “Global Security Watch-Pakistan
Ex-Chair University of the Punjab