Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Marital Disruption: Determinants and Consequences on the Lives of Women in a Rural Area of Bangladesh

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Marital Disruption: Determinants and Consequences on the Lives of Women in a Rural Area of Bangladesh

Article excerpt


Marriage is almost universal in Bangladesh. The process of marriage is still traditional, and the bride has very little participation even in choosing her partner. The patriarchal social system compels a woman to move socially and physically from her natal home to that of her husband, which also shifts her dependence to her husband (1-3). The most important social status a woman attains after marriage is that of a wife and a mother (4). She is groomed from her childhood to be a 'perfect' wife and daughter-in-law. With little access to education and occupational skills and bonded by social restrictions, she has few opportunities to be economically productive outside the four walls, except to play the role of a dutiful wife and to reproduce her husband's family line (2,5,6). For many, marriage is disrupted voluntarily and for others involuntarily (7). Under either set of circumstances, her social and economic security may suffer in the absence of any institutional support. In a society like Bangladesh, where women in general are constrained, it is likely that most of those who suffer marital disruption are in a worse condition; their children also suffer from the consequences (8-12). Although knowledge about the factors associated with dissolution of marriage in developed countries is available in the literature (13,14), there is a dearth of knowledge about the determinants and consequences of dissolution of marriage in Bangladesh.

Recently, there has been a growing concern about the need for development interventions to improve the condition of women. It has also been gradually acknowledged that a mere one-shot benefit to a target group of women would, in fact, not solve their multifarious problems (15). A broader understanding of the predisposing factors that lead to such a vulnerable state and the process thereof is needed to design an effective intervention. With this in view, the present paper focuses on marital disruption due to divorce and abandonment, the process thereof, consequences, and predisposing factors, and discusses the potential role of an integrated women-development programme.


Study site and population

The study area comprised 149 villages in Matlab and Daudkandi thana (sub-district) situated 40-50 km southeast of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. The study villages, with a population of over 200,000, have been covered by the Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS), formerly known as Demographic Surveillance System (DSS), of ICDDR,B: Centre for Health and Population Research since 1966. The area is a low-lying deltaic plain intersected by the tidal river Gumti and its numerous tributaries. The major modes of transportation within the area are on foot, by boat and, in some cases, by small steamer or launch.

As in most other parts of rural Bangladesh, most people in Matlab are poor. Farming is their dominant occupation, except in a few villages where fishing is the main means of livelihood. Female employment is virtually nil with more than 95% engaged in household work. Nearly half of households are economically in marginal situations, owning less than 50 decimals of land and with household members selling manual labour for more than 100 days a year for survival. Fifty percent of males and 30% of females aged above six years can read and write (16).

One half of the study villages have been receiving intensive maternal and child health and family-planning (MCH-FP) services since 1977 from the ICDDR,B, and the other half receive government services only. In 1992, BRAC, a national non-governmental organization, introduced a comprehensive rural development programme in some villages with and without the MCH-FP programme of ICDDR,B. The BRAC programme targeted the poorest of the poor, especially the women. The women in the BRAC villages were organized into small groups of five, and a confederation of small groups in a village, with 20-40 female members, was formed and termed a village organization. …

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