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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Biomedical service delivery for women in Northern Pakistan : subtitle ideological contrasts and social resistance Varley, Emma E. A.


The recent introduction of biomedicine and clinical practice in Northern Pakistan was based upon the assumption that biomedicine would thrive in Northern Pakistan's pluralistic context of traditional medicines. Practitioners envisioned that biomedicine's efficaciousness and secular underpinnings would make it amenable to any ethnic or faith group. While ample studies have indicated that biomedical pharmaceuticals have been adopted with great success despite gender variables (Sweetser, 1993), biomedical clinical practice and its treatment of women in conservative Islamic societies has been more problematic. Despite the best efforts of national and transnational biomedical service initiatives, rural women in Northern Pakistan exhibit some of the developing world's worst indicators for health status, and per capita access and utilization rates of biomedical service delivery. This thesis contends that secular biomedicine's incompatibility with Islamic aspects of socialized gender models has resulted in Sunni Northern Pakistan's preference for the multiplicity of affordable folk and religious healing practices available to them. Professional biomedicine, unlike traditional Islamic therapeutic systems, does not embed or articulate local systems of social relatedness. Because biomedicine neither integrates nor sustains social relatedness and stands outside of the network and norms of social relations, Northern Pakistani society has mobilized women and their access to biomedical service delivery as a point of resistance in their larger efforts to modify unislamic social interventions.

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