Academic journal article International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

Reproduction, Functional Autonomy and Changing Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence within Marriage in Rural India

Academic journal article International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

Reproduction, Functional Autonomy and Changing Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence within Marriage in Rural India

Article excerpt

CONTEXT: The literature on intimate partner violence in resource-poor contexts relies primarily on cross-sectional studies. Because changes in women's status and empowerment are hypothesized to influence violence vulnerability, longitudinal studies are needed to determine the potential benefits and harms associated with such changes.

METHODS: Data were collected prospectively from a representative cohort of 4,749 married women in rural areas of four socially and demographically diverse states in India in 1998-1999 and 2002-2003.A multinomial regression model including social and demographic characteristics and intersurvey changes and events related to functional autonomy and reproduction was fitted to a categorical outcome measuring the absence (reference), initiation, cessation and continuation of intimate partner violence.

RESULTS: Continued freedom of movement, increased freedom of movement and continued financial autonomy between baseline and follow-up were associated with a lower risk of violence initiation rather than no violence (relative risk ratio, 0.7 for each). Having a first child was associated with lower risk of violence initiation and continuation rather than no violence (0.6 and 0.2, respectively). Women who reported that their relative economic contribution to the household decreased or increased and women who experienced an unwanted pregnancy had a higher risk of violence continuation rather than no violence (1.8,1.8 and 1.5, respectively). The death of a child was associated with higher risk of violence initiation rather than no violence (1.4).

CONCLUSION: Future research to inform interventions to reduce intimate partner violence should consider how changes in women's reproductive experiences and functional autonomy may be linked to changes in intimate partner violence.

International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2013, 39(4):215-226, doi: 10.1363/3921513

Male-perpetrated intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women, (1), (2) and its prevalence in South Asia is among the highest in the world. (3), (4) In India, 34% of women of reproductive age reported ever having experienced intimate partner violence; (5) this violence has serious health consequences for both women and children, including poor nutritional status, (6), (7) decreased menial (8-10) and reproductive health, (11-13) increased maternal and child mortality, (14), (15) and limited health seeking. (16-18)

Intimate partner violence in India occurs within the con text of entrenched gender inequality. Preference for male children has led to sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, and neglect and abandonment of female children; (19) between 1950 and 2012, there were an estimated 58.9 million "missing" girls. (20) Gender discrimination during childhood results in differential allocation of nutrition, education and medical care, (21-23) which reflects the devalued place of females in society. Nearly half (47%) of all women aged 20-24 were married before the legal age of 18, (5) and as women move from their natal homes to share a home with their husband, his parents and his unmarried siblings, the protection provided by familial and community support networks is disrupted. (24) Because of patrilineal inheritance practices that diminish the social and economic worth of women, dowries that increase the economic burden of girls, (25) and dependence on sons in old age and death, (23) married women face pressure to prove their value and social worth through reproduction, and the production of sons in particular. (24)

Intimate partner violence is frequently viewed as a culturally acceptable form of punishment and appropriate demonstration of masculinity. Although extreme physical violence is proscribed, (26) control, psychological abuse, neglect and isolation have become normalized.' Acceptance of violence is prevalent among both men and women. …

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