Religion holds unique importance in people’s lives, and has been cited as an important factor in reproductive health. Pakistan has a Muslim majority and the character of the country is strongly marked by Islam. In rural areas, where the majority of the population reside, religious leaders are considered as opinion makers. The perception of adult males regarding the influence of the ‘religious factor’ in their use of modern contraceptive methods, and their views on the role of religious leaders in community education, were explored through a cross-sectional survey conducted in twelve rural districts of Pakistan in 2000. A sample of 180 married adult males participated in the study through consecutive sampling. The study was qualitative, utilizing tools such as in-depth and key-informant interviews. The majority of men interviewed considered that religious leaders were against fertility control, and 29% cited religion as a reason for their non-use of modern contraceptives. Respondents also suggested that the involvement of religious leaders in reproductive health programmes is essential for the programmes’ effectiveness in rural areas. They thought that religious leaders could contribute positively to community education, and suggested ways in which they could educate the community in reproductive health issues. They also suggested various channels through which religious leaders could be approached to convince them to cooperate in reproductive health programmes. The study concludes that involving religious leaders in rural settings could enable reproductive health programmes and services to reach more conservative groups in society, and thus contribute effectively to bringing about positive change in the attitudes of Pakistani society towards reproductive health.
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