KARACHI - Comprehensive efforts and mass level awareness are required to address the issue of Gender Based Violence (GBV) which mostly affects women, recommended the participants of two focus group discussions in Sindh. The event was organised by World Population Foundation (WPF) with partner NGOs in two districts of Sindh. Realising the need to address the issue of GBV in relation to reproductive health, World Population Foundation (WPF) has initiated a project on 'Capacity Building of Pakistani NGOs on Gender Based Violence and Reproductive Health, being implemented in 6 districts of Pakistan. The focus group discussions were attended by community members, health professionals, lawyers, members of local district government, educationist, representatives of CBOs and NGOs. It was facilitated by Programme Manager, Institutional Strengthening, Muhammad Anwar, and Programme Officer Capacity Development, Ashima Hussain, with the help of a consultant while local partners were Kainaat Development Association and Community Development Foundation. Participants pointed out that women staggeringly have high rates of sexual assault, domestic violence, honour killing and abusive customary practices. Linkages and consequences of gender based violence on the reproductive health were also raised. Sharing the examples, real levels of GBV are likely to be underestimated given the reluctance of women, who are usually the victims, to speak out. Among the participants one of the lady health visitor said: Often women are scared to say anything about using contraceptives and are accompanied to healthcare centers by their mother-in-laws. They think they are no one to decide should they visit a doctor but their husbands and families; therefore they suffer in silence. Highlighting the root causes, participants pointed out that the rigid social norms and traditions have caused serious repercussions on the health of young girls and women in the society. Citing examples of GBV-RH, they agreed that it began long before a woman is born. Given the patriarchal society, parents preferred a male child. To find out the sex of the unborn, ultrasound was an often used method. A focus group member belonging to the medical community and heading a public facility revealed that sex selective abortions often happened as women preferred aborting a fetus than giving birth to a female. A number of health and gender factors put women at a comparative disadvantage vis-a-vis men. This is reflected in the fact that between 15 per cent and 71 per cent of women suffer physical or sexual violence committed by an intimate male partner at some point in their life. A previous study concluded in Karachi pointed out that nearly one quarter of the women were subjected to some form of violence during pregnancy; it could range from slapping to forced sexual intercourse. It was also learnt that the knowledge about reproductive health issues such as the use of contraceptives, birth spacing as well as STIs and other infections was depended on a womans socio-economic level, mobility, educational background and awareness. During the course of discussion, various aspects of gender based violence on the reproductive health of women were talked about which laid stress at the teenage marriages of girls as a social dilemma. Community representatives shared that status of women in decision making at the time of marriage is at the minimum; moreover cultural and traditional practices have made the conditions even worse. Violation of fundamental rights of women while starting their reproductive life is also a complex and cultural specific concern. WPF, Programme Manager Muhammad Anwar appreciated the effective participation of the community representatives, since interventions regarding GBV and RH has never been undertaken in Pakistan before and considering the immense challenges by combining the two very important issues. WPF team also added that WPF-Pakistan foresee necessity of initiatives that will strengthen the capacity of the local people to create enabling environment to deal with the issues related to sexual and reproductive health and women rights which are crushed due to increased violence on women; this will also help to decentralise responsibilities in this regard to the community levels.