Academic journal article The Journal of Developing Areas

Risk Factors for Domestic Violence - an Empirical Analysis for Indian States

Academic journal article The Journal of Developing Areas

Risk Factors for Domestic Violence - an Empirical Analysis for Indian States

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In his seminal work, Amartya Sen (1999) contends that nurturing human capabilities is key to sustainable economic development. He argues that greater freedom (protective security, social opportunity, and political freedom) would unleash greater economic development than a myopic focus on high GDP growth rates. Unfortunately, many countries are yet to embrace this valuable concept, particularly when it comes to women. Women's empowerment is still mostly limited to a headcount of women's participation in public institutions or in the share of "literate" women in the country. This approach fails to acknowledge the fact that women's true empowerment is rather a function of freedom from any form of physical or mental abuse. Violence against women and girls is a global problem of pandemic proportions. The UN reports that seventy percent of women worldwide are estimated to be victims of violence in their lifetime, and women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war, or malaria2.

Among the G-20 nations, India ranks as the worst place to be a woman according to a 2012 Thomson Reuters Survey3. While India has progressed in terms of GDP and growth, it struggles to guarantee the levels of freedom outlined by Sen (1999) to its women. India's National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3), carried out in 29 states during 200506, found that a substantial proportion of married women have been physically or sexually abused by their husbands at some time in their lives. The survey indicated 37.2 percent of Indian women nationwide "experienced violence" after marriage. It wasn't until 1983 that domestic violence was recognized as a specific criminal offense by the introduction of section 498-A into the Indian Penal Code. This was followed by a comprehensive domestic violence law - the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in 2005, which took effect in 2006. This act applies to actual abuse or threats of abuse against women in their homes, including those of a physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic nature. Under the new rules, marital rape (previously not prosecutable unless the woman was under age 15), is considered a criminal offense4. The act also covers harassment of a wife or family member by demands for dowry.

Despite recent legal advancements, domestic violence remains deeply ingrained in the socio-institutional fabric of India. Several studies on domestic violence in India have documented its prevalence and stressed socio-cultural factors contribute to its pervasiveness (Bhatti 1990, Visaria 1999). While some have underscored domestic violence in India controlling for caste, economic class, religion, age, and education, others have focused on the impact of domestic violence, especially on the physical and emotional health of females (Jejeebhoy 1998). However, most studies do not address the issue of susceptibility of women to domestic violence within the specific context of their cultural, economic, and social backgrounds due to lack of comprehensive household data on domestic violence.

This paper examines some risk factors that make ever-married Indian women vulnerable to domestic violence. In contrast to previous studies that are typically state specific and rely on population-based surveys, our paper uses a large cross-national database to thoroughly examine risk factors associated with domestic violence in India in a large sample of ever married women in the age group 15 to 49 years. In particular, our study utilizes the NFHS-3 database to prospectively examine the factors associated with domestic violence in a nationally representative sample of ever-married women in India. NFHS-3 provides trend data on key indicators and includes information on population, health and nutrition in India and each of its 29 states. The 2005-2006 survey is based on a large sample of households, which is representative at the national and state levels. …

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