Sexual and physical abuse faced by married women in India has been a known phenomenon. Activists have raised the issue on numerous occasions and the government too has recognised the issue. The data from National Health Family Survey shows that approximately 37 per cent of married women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
While successive governments have embarked on several schemes to propagate safe sex and population control, there is little to show in terms of results.
In a shocking revelation, a report published in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine’s latest issue claims that about 46 per cent women face sexual and physical violence from their husbands over disagreements about safe sex.
Of the 500 women who participated in the study conducted by Delhi University’s College of Medical Sciences, about 46 per cent said that they could not use condoms because it was their husbands’ decision.
The study further revealed that 39 per cent of them faced forced sex and sexual violence, 23 per cent faced physical violence and 33 per cent verbal abuse.
Shockingly, only 12 per cent of the cases witnessed fight back from women, whereas the rest 88 per cent of the victims never complained.
Dr Nilanchali Singh, author of the study, said that wives are not allowed to make independent choices when it comes to family planning and have no “reproductive autonomy” in India’s male-dominated society.
“Decisions regarding getting pregnant or to avoid pregnancy are mostly taken either by the husband or mother-in-law,” Daily Mail quoted Dr Singh as saying.
“This reproductive control by a man can exist in several forms - economic or monetary control (depriving a women by not giving her money to buy contraceptives), emotional (accusing her of not trusting him, telling her that due to work stress he forgot to buy contraception), and physical (getting angry and violent over her contraceptive requests). Many a time they just ignore her advice regarding contraception. All these behaviours expose her to the risk of recurrent pregnancy and at times, recurrent induced abortion,” she further added.
Domestic violence by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner include injuries, chronic pain syndrome, depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections and less frequent contraceptive use.
The study also claimed that around 29 per cent of the victim women are illiterate, but those who are educated are also victims in around 8 per cent cases.
“Women in abused relationships have limited decision-making regarding contraceptive use and family planning. Women’s lack of control over her reproductive health is increasingly recognised as a critical mechanism underlying abused women’s elevated risk for unintended pregnancy,” she said.