Challenging assumptions about women's empowerment: Social and economic resources and domestic violence among young married women in urban South India
BACKGROUND: Although considerable research has documented the widespread prevalence of spousal violence in India, little is known about specific risk or protective factors. This study examines the relationships between factors that are often considered to be social and economic resources for women and recent occurrence of domestic violence. METHODS: Data were collected from 744 young married women in slum areas of Bangalore, India. Unadjusted and adjusted multivariable logistic regression models were used to determine factors associated with having been hit, kicked or beaten by one's husband in the past 6 months. RESULTS: Over half (56%) of the study participants reported having ever experienced physical domestic violence; about a quarter (27%) reported violence in the past 6 months. In a full multivariable model, women in 'love' marriages (OR=1.7, 95% CI 1.1-2.5) and those whose families were asked for additional dowry after marriage (OR=2.3, 95% CI 1.5-3.4) were more likely to report domestic violence. Women who participated in social groups (OR=1.6, 95% CI 1.0-2.4) and vocational training (OR=3.1, 95% CI 1.7-5.8) were also at higher risk. CONCLUSIONS: Efforts to help women empower themselves through vocational training, employment opportunities and social groups need to consider the potential unintended consequences for these women, such as an increased risk of domestic violence. The study findings suggest that the effectiveness of anti-dowry laws may be limited without additional strategies that mobilize women, families and communities to challenge the widespread acceptance of dowry and to promote gender equity. Longitudinal studies are needed to elucidate the complex causal relationships between 'love' marriages and domestic violence.