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Nationally, more than a third of women report some form of domestic violence in India. This study set in a Mumbai slum shows that structural violence contributes to domestic violence and also systematically disadvantages women by forcing them to drop out of school, reduces labour force participation and prevents women from leaving abusive marriages. We find that birth order, age at marriage and the support of the natal family, all play a critical role in shaping women’s life trajectories. Although natal families and women’s social networks under certain conditions can help mitigate violence, these are limited. Using six case studies, this study proposes a framework that encompasses multiple dimensions and forms of insecurity, categorised into material, physical, sociocultural or sexual constraints. By doing so, it delineates mechanisms by which institutional and normative contexts gender vulnerabilities. Methodologically, this article uses an ethnographic approach and, including two pairs of mothers and daughters as case studies, offers an intergenerational perspective that underscores the transmission of violent life trajectories, highlighting the limited possibilities for mitigation. Thus, programmes that aim to reduce domestic violence need to go beyond the family as a site of intervention, to account for the role that systemic violence plays in the production of domestic violence in marginal spaces, such as slums. JEL: I12, I3, J16
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The Political
Economy of
Domestic Violence
in a Mumbai Slum:
An Ethnographic
Sreeparna Ghosh1
Nationally, more than a third of women report some form of domestic
violence in India. This study set in a Mumbai slum shows that struc-
tural violence contributes to domestic violence and also systematically
disadvantages women by forcing them to drop out of school, reduces
labour force participation and prevents women from leaving abusive
marriages. We find that birth order, age at marriage and the support of
the natal family, all play a critical role in shaping women’s life trajecto-
ries. Although natal families and women’s social networks under certain
conditions can help mitigate violence, these are limited. Using six case
studies, this study proposes a framework that encompasses multiple
dimensions and forms of insecurity, categorised into material, physical,
sociocultural or sexual constraints. By doing so, it delineates mecha-
nisms by which institutional and normative contexts gender vulnerabili-
ties. Methodologically, this article uses an ethnographic approach and,
including two pairs of mothers and daughters as case studies, offers
an intergenerational perspective that underscores the transmission of
violent life trajectories, highlighting the limited possibilities for miti-
gation. Thus, programmes that aim to reduce domestic violence need
Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics
27(2) 175–198
© 2015 SAGE Publications India
Private Limited
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0260107915582297
1 School of Development, Azim Premj University, Bengaluru.
Corresponding author:
Sreeparna Ghosh, School of Development, Azim Premj University, PES, Bengaluru.
176 Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics 27(2)
to go beyond the family as a site of intervention, to account for the role
that systemic violence plays in the production of domestic violence in
marginal spaces, such as slums.
JEL: I12, I3, J16
Domestic violence, gender, india, slum, ethnography, structural violence
Premchand’s Nirmala, written in 1928, is a tragic novel that chronicles
the life of its protagonist Nirmala, who, although initially engaged to an
appropriate suitor at 15, is married to a widowed man 20 years older than
her with adult children. This is attributed to her father’s unexpected death,
which meant a handsome dowry could not be arranged, terminating the
engagement, and ultimately compromising her life-chances. Life after
marriage is a series of tragedies, and her husband’s suspicions about her
delity, stemming from his own insecurities at having married a much
younger and beautiful woman, play a signicant part in the unfolding of
these events.
Nearly 90 years later, the story echoes the life trajectories of many
women and girls in India. This study set in a slum community in north-
eastern Mumbai uncovers the processes by which the lives of poor
women are structured by events, which may not only impoverish them
materially, but also deprive them of life-altering choices. In this essay,
I will first briefly review factors that heighten the risks of domestic vio-
lence; secondly, using a heuristic device that I term domestic insecurity,
I will underscore the interactive and iterative exchanges between struc-
tural violence and family violence; and finally using six case studies of
women including two pairs of mothers and daughters, I will demonstrate
the value of employing a life-cycle approach, grounded in ethnographic
techniques, to reveal the mechanics of the intergenerational transmission
of negative life trajectories.
Brief Review of the Literature
A review of the scholarship suggests that while several studies using
statistical techniques have identied certain risk factors for domestic
Ghosh 177
violence in India, such as low education, spousal unemployment, alcohol
use, dowry demands, childhood corporal punishment and childhood
exposure to family violence (Babu & Kar, 2009; Burton et al., 2000;
Flury, Nyberg & Riecher-Rossler, 2010; Jeyaseelan et al., 2007; Kimuna
et al., 2012; Koenig et al., 2006; Pandey, Dutt & Banerjee, 2009), few
have delineated the mechanics of the production of violence grounded in
qualitative techniques, that privilege the voices of victims (Agnes, 1988;
Bhattacharya, 2004). Yet fewer studies exist that employ a life-cycle
approach and ethnographic techniques, explicating the links between the
correlates of early marriages and instability in women’s lives, and the
nature of gendered disadvantage.1
Cross-country surveys of domestic violence indicate that while vio-
lence against female partners is prevalent across all groups, women
living in poverty disproportionately experience domestic violence
(Abramsky et al., 2011; Abrahams & Jewkes, 2005; Burazeri et al., 2005;
Ellesberg et al., 1999; Flake, 2005; Kishor & Johnson, 2004; Kyu and
Kanai 2005; Okemgbo et al., 2002; Schuler et al., 1996; Xiao et al.,
2005). Heise (1999) postulated that poverty probably acts as a marker for
a variety of social conditions that combine to increase the risks faced by
women. These surveys while useful as a catalogue of risks and protective
factors across the Global South that allow for comparisons, are limited
by the constraints of quantitative methodologies, and therefore unable to
excavate the narratives of women’s lives, delineating pathways that
structure vulnerability to violence. In the Indian context, the cleavages of
caste, class, religion and gender are critical for contextualizing human
suffering in general, and domestic violence in particular (Dalal &
Lindqvist, 2012; Krishnan, 2005; Panchanadeswaran et al., 2008; Sinha
et al., 2012; Vivian et al., 2003). Also, situating violence within these
intersectionalities reveals that capacities for mitigation vary widely and
often depend on pre-existing material, emotional or social resources of
the individual and the household.
Exploring the interplay between household and individual determi-
nants and the larger political economy is one possible approach to under-
standing the structural mechanics of the production of marital violence.
To this end, the findings from this study suggest that contributing factors
to early marriage, such as dropping out of school, rural residence or resi-
dence in a poor area, such as a slum, closely resemble: (a) circumstances
conducive for domestic violence, and (b) constrains women from leav-
ing abusive marriages. Desai and Andrist (2010) find sexual scripts to be
a useful determinant of age at marriage; it is lower in areas/communities
that are more concerned with women’s sexuality and have higher levels
178 Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics 27(2)
of gender segregation. While early marriage is a statistically significant
correlate for domestic violence (Erulkar, 2013; Singh & Samara, 1996;
Speizer & Pearson, 2011), an interesting question is how do concerns
about women’s sexuality interact with individual and contextual factors?
Not all families equally restrict their daughters, and communities differ
in the degree to which they police norms of segregation and women’s
Household Insecurity
It is possible to answer some of these questions using a heuristic device
that I term household insecurity that captures the shocks or life events that
specically disadvantage poor women. Some shocks, such as the death
or protracted illness of the primary earner or caregiver or alcoholism of
a father, can make households insecure by exposing them to negative
outcomes. Household insecurity could be viewed as a continuous state
of insecurity or uncertainty due to certain events or constraints that
could be one of, or a combination of material, social/cultural, emotional
and physical factors. Figure 1 demonstrates this concept, indicating
that shocks may individually or together contribute to structure gender
disadvantage. Please note that I use the term household instead of
families to capture the variety in living arrangements in a slum, including
multiple individuals who may not be a part of the nuclear unit, but yet are
effective in mitigating violence.
Although not an exhaustive catalogue, Figure 1 outlines multiple con-
straints/shocks that poor households are disproportionately exposed to,
making them insecure. Social or cultural factors act less like shocks and
more like constraints, including caste and family norms related to early
marriage, dowry practices, specific cultural expectations that differ
according to gender and birth order, higher premium on boys’ further
education and simultaneous devaluation of girls’ education, stigma asso-
ciated with women’s work in the informal sector and an emphasis on
women’s chastity, all operate to shape gender disadvantage and compro-
mise the well-being of its members, and in particular the life-chances of
The findings from this study find resonance in the political ecology
approach that connects interpersonal and individual factors to power
relations and larger social structures (Belsky, 1980; Ellsberg et al., 1999;
Farmer, Connors & Simmons, 1996; Garcia-Moreno et al., 2005; Heise,
1998; Michalski, 2004;). These perspectives contend that structural
Ghosh 179
violence or ‘the social machinery of oppression’ (Farmer, 2004: 307)
systematically disadvantages the poor sometimes subtly, but always with
tangible impacts on their lives. Thus, domestic violence and structural
violence are mutually reinforcing, and domestic violence is embedded in
wider relations of power and privilege in society, a conclusion that also
emerges from this study.
Methodology and Description of Site
This study involved a yearlong eldwork (2005–06) in a slum
located in one of the most deprived wards of north-eastern Mumbai
(Ward M). Three practitioners, two trained in AYUSH and one without
any formal training provided healthcare for the community. For serious
Figure 1. Dimensions of Household Insecurity
180 Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics 27(2)
medical conditions, patients had to visit a Municipal hospital located
6 kilometres away. A single government school offered instructions in
Telugu and Marathi just outside the slum. There were 1,400 households
split into four co-operative societies with the smallest comprising 200
households and the largest nearly 500 households. Using a snowball
sampling technique, I initially visited 80 households across the slum, of
which 52 agreed to participate in the study. During in-depth interviews
and informal conversations, many women spontaneously raised the issue
of marital violence. While I personally did not interview men, a trained
male social worker was appointed to conduct interviews with methods
similar to those employed for women. Data from the National Family
and Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3) have also been used to supplement
ndings when relevant while primarily six in-depth case studies have
been employed to substantiate the arguments.
Prevalence of Domestic Violence
NFHS-3 indicates that nationally nearly 39 per cent of women report
physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse at some point in their lives
(NFHS-3, 2005–06). Of the 52 women interviewed, 28 reported physical
violence and the majority reported some form of emotional abuse. While
prevalent across all social groups, poor women are more likely to report
experiencing violence than women from advantaged social groups (Dalal
& Lindqvist, 2012; Kimuna et al., 2012; Krishnan, 2005). Domestic
violence was described using colloquial terms such as bhandan-maar-
haan (altercations and beating-harm in Marathi and jhagda maar-peet
in Hindi) instead of technical terms such as ‘gharelu hinsa’ or ‘parivarik
pratarna’ (family violence in Hindi) and ‘gharguti hinsa’ (in Marathi).
The terms ‘tras’ and ‘taqlif’ in Marathi and Hindi respectively were
used to convey pain/difculties/anguish and challenges that punctuated
their lives of poverty, such as lack of sanitation, water scarcity, material
deprivation and frequent illnesses. Although the majority of women drew
clear distinctions between mild physical violence, such as a slap or two
and severe physical violence leading to visible injuries or bleeding,3 and
justied the former but not the latter, in instances of major infractions of
gendered norms, wife beating was generally justied by them.4 Emotional
abuse and controlling behaviours, such as restricting mobility, were seen
as more violating than physical abuse, as was the act of throwing women
out of the house, because it indicated a complete disregard for her honour
and suggested that she was fair game for other men in the community.
Ghosh 181
Marital rape described as jabardasti (force) was sometimes viewed as a
manifestation of the different levels of sexual desire of a couple, rather
than the inherently violent act of rape; some women viewed sex as a
chore, an obligation as part of the marital contract, often saying that
‘I do it because I have to’,5 and sexual violence was more often reported
by women when husbands were drunk.
Description of the Context and Interviewees
Table 1 presents some key socio-demographic characteristics of the
As the table indicates, the slum was economically and social diverse;
generally Christian and some Muslim households that benefitted from
Table 1. Socio-demographic Characteristics of Research Participants
Indicator NDetails
Migrant women 20
Non-migrant women 32
Marital status Married 44
Widowed 4
Abandoned 1
Married but separated 1
Single 1
Religion Hindu 40
Forward castes 24 Primarily marathas
SCs 12 Primarily Vadaris
OBCs 4
Muslim 9
Christian 3
Average numbers of children 2.69 One to seven children; two
women were pregnant with
their first child.
Average ages of women 35.17 (17–51 years)
Average years of education 5 0–14 years
Working for
(Domestic help—5;
tailoring at home—3;
others—4; tutoring—2)
182 Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics 27(2)
family members’ remittances from Middle-eastern countries were better-
off. Instead of income figures, I noted visible assets in the households,
which suggested that migrant households were more impoverished and
all lived as tenants. Some Maratha families that had migrated in the
previous decade were also less well off. Vadaris (from Andhra Pradesh)
were some of the earliest settlers in the slum (some settling as early as
1965), initially building temporary shelters and later on permanent kholis
(rooms), had higher rates of home ownership. The Marathas resented
this success and viewed this as a denial of their primordial claims to the
land, and in reality some Marathas were as penurious as more recent
migrants. Older Maratha families had become poorer because of the
closure of textile mills where men had found secure employment in the
1970s and 1980s, and were either presently unemployed or had jobs
in small informal enterprises. In these situations, the wives were the
breadwinners or the household depended on adult sons, when present.
The younger men worked in the service sector, in small factories, in
petrol pumps or as couriers. Some women worked as maids or had small
home-based tailoring business; a few were tutors for primary school
children, while a minority worked in the services industry.
Wings of a Butterfly: The Fragility of the Lives of the Poor
I have selected the life stories of six women (two pairs of mothers–
daughters) to map life events that make households vulnerable to
uncover processes that constrain women’s agency. In four of the six
cases, women had been subjected to domestic violence and were
therefore more disadvantaged; thus, while shocks to the household may
be inevitable, timely support from kin protects women. Please note that
all names used in this study are pseudonyms to protect the anonymity and
condentiality of women. Table 2 includes details of women selected for
deeper discussions.
Shanti was a 20-year-old woman living in one of the most impoverished
households with her husband, a two-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old
husband’s niece. She traced her roots to rural Bengal, though she was
born in Mumbai. Her natal family included three younger sisters and
a brother. After being forced to drop out of school in the ninth grade
for nancial reasons, at 17 she was married to a family acquaintance,
12 years older than her, much against her wishes. Note the following
Table 2. Details of Participants Chosen for the Study
Names Shanti Sabiha Asifa Priti Sita Babamma
Age 20 31 45 46 26 45
Mother/Daughter (M/D) D D M D D M
Education (Years) 9 7 0 4 5 0
Age at marriage 17 15 12 16, 26 (1st, 2nd) 17 14
Husband’s age 32 Not applicable Not applicable 50 Not applicable 60
Age difference with husband 12 10 7 4 7 15
Number of members in the household 4 4 3 4 8 (+ Joint Household with extended kin)
Marital status Married Widowed
(3 Years)
(5 Years )
Married Widowed
(6 Months)
remarried (16 Years)
Employed No Yes No Ye s Ye s No
Husband employed No Deceased Deceased Part time Deceased Yes
No. of children 1 4 (3 living) 5 2 2 5
Religion Hindu Muslim Muslim Christian Hindu Hindu
Beaten Ye s Ye s Ye s Ye s No Ye s
Place of Origin Urban Urban Rural Rural Urban Rural
Own house Ye s Ye s Ye s No Ye s Ye s
Health status Kamzori6Anaemia, urinary infections,
kamzori, back pain
Hypertension, arthritis,
Arthritis, non-specific
pains, kamzori.
Source: Author’s own research.
184 Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics 27(2)
conversation with her which describes the circumstances under which
she was married7.
Shanti: (I got married early)… because we had ‘problems’ at home… My
‘Daddy’ and I used to have a lot of ghts… he used to beat my mother and
also yell at her. I would tell him to not do that and try to stop it… so he would
beat me up too… That is why my mother married me off early.
S: Did your father drink alcohol?
Shanti: Yes (Nods).
S: Does your mother go to work? Who is there in her maika?
Shanti: Yes she goes to the market. She is a bhaji wali (vegetable vendor)…
her maika (natal household) is here only. Her mother is there. But her father
has died. Her brothers are there, but how long will they take care of her?…
I did not want to get married. I did not want to leave my mother and come.
And I would not go anywhere or do anything without my mother’s permis-
sion. Then my mother thought it was better for me if I married… so that
I have a better life than her… I think.
A clustering of factors disadvantaged Shanti including her birth order
as the eldest daughter which pressurized Shanti’s mother into this early
marriage believing that marriage would provide her daughter a safety net,
protect her from her father’s drunken rages, and would ease the financial
pressures on a household with three younger daughters who needed to be
fed, schooled and married. Such decisions primarily taken by mothers in
households where the father’s role is limited because of remarriage or
alcoholism or unemployment are not unusual. However, marriage did not
offer her a better life, mirroring her mother’s life. Shanti’s husband was
chronically unemployed and often beat her (even when not drunk) and
threw her out of the house. His control over her was evident through an
extreme surveillance of her speech, actions and mobility8.
During the course of the fieldwork I learnt that although her neigh-
bours knew that her husband ‘had AIDS’—information his mother had
shared with one of them before she died—her husband had not revealed
this to Shanti, exposing her and the child to contracting HIV/AIDS since
Shanti was still nursing her daughter and was not using condoms. Her
husband attributed his joblessness to his ill health caused by ‘malaria
that had affected his bones’. For more than a year, he had been unem-
ployed, having lost his job in a gas agency delivering cylinders, with no
indications that he wanted to, or was physically fit to be employed.
Periodic contributions from his brother who lived next door and on the
rare occasions that he won at teen patti (gambling), comprised the only
sources of income for the family. Despite the violence and poverty of her
Ghosh 185
marital home, the possibilities of returning to her natal family were slim.
Shanti’s social network was also fragile; she had few friends in the slum,
and suspicions about her HIV status had alienated her from many in the
community, including two of her neighbours from eastern India who
though initially friendly because of perceived cultural similarities, later
had distanced themselves from her. Of all the women in this study, Shanti
was the most vulnerable because of the burden of the multiple forms of
violence, and the absence of any mitigating mechanisms.
Priti was a 46-year-old Tamil Christian woman married to a Hindu man
with two adult sons. Her childhood was difcult with her mother’s
blindness and chronic illnesses and eventual death, and her father’s and
alcoholism and subsequent death. When she was in her early teens she
migrated to Mumbai with her father, a commercial painter in search
of work, dropping out of a Christian school with just four years of
schooling. For a few years before her marriage, she worked in a plastic
bag manufacturing unit. Her mother’s death forced her younger sister
to also migrate to Mumbai. Soon after she turned 16, a maternal aunt
arranged Priti’s marriage and took over the care of her sister. However,
within the rst year, her in-laws threw her out under the (mistaken)
assumption that she was infertile. She returned to her father’s house and
was re-employed in her earlier job. In the intervening 10 years between
her marriages, her father died and her aunt began to pressurize her
to remarry since there was no one ‘to take care of her’. She met her
second husband at work and following a two year courtship, married
him. However, the full extent of his alcohol use and violent behaviour
was revealed only later. In the conversation below, she recounts the
abuse, offers reasons for not leaving him and also insightfully critiques
gendered and inequitable norms.
Priti: He used to ght verbally, hit me, and suspect my delity… I was scared
of him, so I would go and sit in this lane or that one over there (points outside)
and then he got sick because he drank so much. We had to take him to the
hospital. After he returned from the hospital he has been better.
S: How many years after your marriage did he begin this?
Priti: After the second child was born, he began to drink a lot more… initially
his job was temporary. Then after that he lost his job, just sat at home and was
drinking all the time.
S: Did he have friends drinking with him?
Priti: Yes they used to come home, try to talk to me and they would all
drink here. I would not even talk to them because my husband was always
186 Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics 27(2)
suspicious of me. I used to tell him ‘Why do you bring these people to our
house? You should not bring such people to our home’. Then he would beat
me because of them and throw me out of the house. He would beat me very
badly. With belt, with utensils. You see that large brass pot there it has become
at because he beat me with it. I used to have black marks all over my body.
S: (Pause…)
Priti: I could not go anywhere. You know why? Because I do not have any
sahara (support) no mother, no father, how many years will my mausi (mater-
nal aunt) support me? I thought of all this and tolerated it. Everyone tried
to explain it to him, his relatives, his aunts, sometimes the neighbours… he
would not understand, he just would not understand (that it is not right to
beat her). I also could not leave… the children need a father… society would
ostracize me. They would tell me that rst also this happened (her rst mar-
riage) and now again. They would say this woman is bad. No matter what the
man does, no matter how much he drinks or how much pain (taqlif) he causes
his wife, samaj (society) never blames him. Everyone casts aspersions on the
woman (nam badnam karna). Now the children are all grown up and if he
gets too tensed the children also get angry with him (gussa karten hain), now
he does not say anything, he just sits quietly. My younger son specially yells
at him if he shouts at me. There have been no ghts recently… in the last
12 years things have been nice and quiet.
The lack of support from Priti’s natal family and its insecurity, fac-
tors that contributed to her early first marriage, also constrained her
from ending the abusive second marriage. The irony of a father who
may be absent financially or otherwise, but is symbolically important,
is not lost on Priti; her critique underscores the unequal and gendered
nature of norms that allow a man to get away with being a bad husband,
but ostracizes a woman if she were to leave an abusive marriage. Her
sister despite having a violent marriage was able to leave since her
mausi agreed to provide shelter and support to her and the two chil-
dren. For Priti this meant that she could not have left because her aunt
already had too many ‘mouths to feed’. Priti’s status as a poor, previ-
ously abandoned woman and the absence of material support from her
natal family heavily circumscribes her choices. Although her father
had owned a kholi, he sold it before his death, leaving both sisters with
neither property nor money9. In her case, alcohol was one of the key
precipitators of violence and is a known determinant of abuse (Nayak
et al., 2010).
The abuse abated only when her husband became ill, forcing him to
abstain from alcohol, and her sons transitioning into adulthood. Priti’s
status as a tenant, despite a decade spent living in the same slum, and her
Ghosh 187
work as a broker for an agency that supplied maids, socially disadvan-
taged her. In the slum, home owners often derogatorily termed their ten-
ant neighbours as ‘bhadotris’ to signal their lower social status as well as
a lack of entitlements and access to economic and social capital. Since
Priti’s work required her to meet clients at ‘odd hours’ (late evenings), it
aroused suspicions that she was in fact a pimp. These attitudes towards
her work is symbolic of the stigma often associated with the ‘informal-
ity’ of women’s work in slums, especially if they involve evening hours,
and the enforcement of these norms through negative labelling, often
discourages poor women from being employed, even if it means that
they would be deprived of certain necessities.10
Asifa and Sabiha
Asifa was a 45-year-old woman married at the age of 12, to a 17-year-
old boy from her village in eastern Andhra Pradesh. Both she and her
husband had never been to school and were from very impoverished
families of landless farmers. Asifa had ve grown children, two daughters
and three sons. After the birth of her second child and a particularly
catastrophic drought, they migrated to Mumbai. Her husband found a job
as a plumber, initially earning enough to buy a kholi in the slum. Though
he did not drink in the village, he started using alcohol, in the city, often
beating Asifa, and his employment became increasingly erratic. Despite
the interventions of village elders, he could not be reasoned with. He
prohibited Asifa from working, notwithstanding the fact that they
frequently starved. When she was approached by a neighbour for the
marriage of her eldest daughter, Sabiha, 14 years old at the time, who had
attained puberty two years earlier, she readily agreed. She said concerns
for her safety in the slum, the lack of schooling in Urdu-medium close
by, and the communal riots of 1992–93 in Mumbai, encouraged her to
marry off Asifa believing that marriage was the most ‘secure’ option for
her daughter.
Of the three, two of her sons had dropped out because of a lack of
interest in education and her eldest son was 25 and unemployed. He
often drank, had violent outbursts, did not hesitate to push or shove his
mother and forcibly took away the little money she had. Despite this, she
did not ask him to leave. She said: ‘He is my son I cannot completely
sever all ties with him… I feel bad about abandoning him. Who will feed
him? He does not come home for days together but after all it is a
mother’s heart, will it not pain?’ She appeared very depressed and she
lamented that her life was spent first enduring her husband’s violence,
and presently her son’s abuse. It is worth noting that Asifa’s situation is
188 Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics 27(2)
atypical, because sons are rarely abusive towards their mothers; in fact as
seen with Priti, the presence of adult sons actually protects women from
violence. However, she had the emotional support of her daughter Sabiha
who lived nearby and often helped her mother financially when circum-
stances permitted her to do so. Asifa’s husband had died 10 years ago and
two of her children worked in a tailoring shop which allowed the house-
hold to stay afloat.
Sabiha, Asifa’s eldest child, was 31-year-old widow with three children.
Sabiha said at the time of her marriage, she had serious reservations about
the match. Her husband was 10 years older and already engaged to
another woman; however, her mother-in-law disapproved of his choice,
and wanted Sabiha as her son’s wife. Sabiha’s mother reasoned that since
he was in a shoe-making business with his brother, her daughter would
be well provided for. Sabiha was persuaded to marry, and she conceived
her first child within a year, and three children soon thereafter, of which
one died in infancy. Although her husband drank alcohol before marriage,
he was not an alcoholic; however, within a few years, he had stopped
concentrating on the business and turned into a chronic alcoholic. He
would receive his salary at the end of each work week, spend most of it on
alcohol, come home drunk, beat her up and often forced himself on her if
she protested. Like Shanti’s and Priti’s husbands, he would occasionally
throw her out of the house along with the children. In the excerpt below
Sabiha reflects on the limited role her natal family played in mitigating the
Sabiha: We would always have ghts when he was drunk. I used to latch
the door from the outside and go to my mother’s house. Then he would start
yelling and wake up the neighbours and complain to them that I had locked
him and gone away. If he was drunk then his habit was not to sleep quietly
during the day. Then at about 7 in the evening the water used to come and he
would yell at me to switch off the light and let him sleep and to not ll water.
Then he would talk rubbish because he was drunk… my children would cry
and plead with him to not beat me up, they would keep asking him to not beat
me. Sometimes he would beat us up and throw us out of the house and tell
us to get out.
S: You would be out the whole night?
Sabiha: Yes that has happened and if I went to my mother’s place, she would
tell me ‘what is wrong with you people? You are quiet during the day but start
making a tamasha (ruckus) at night’. So instead of being shouted at time and
again I preferred to bear the pain myself. Then I would take my children and
sit out. I knew if he fought with me, he would throw us out of the house, so
I would grab a rug or a bed sheet beforehand so we could spend the night out.
Ghosh 189
If I tried complaining to any one they would tell me that you cannot clap with
one hand only. So I thought it was better to just handle it myself and try to
protect my children than ask people.
This conversation touches on two key areas: support from natal family
and neighbours; the latter has important implications for mitigation of
family violence and has been discussed elsewhere (Ghosh, 2011).
Neighbours often viewed wife-beating as a nuisance that they had to live
with, especially when it was caused by drunk husbands. She intermittently
had the support of her mother-in-law but this was complicated by the
dynamics of their relationship.
Sabiha: When my mother-in-law was there I would try to get her support.
I would tell her ‘Look mother, what he is telling me’. Then if she felt that it
was appropriate to reprimand him, she would do that and if she felt it was
appropriate to scold me she would scold me. Then I would keep quiet… he
used to come home drunk also when she was around. And we would ght
but my mother-in-law would intervene. After she passed away, then it got
worse because he realized there is no one to reprimand him or stop him…
sometimes she would save me. But sometimes what would happen is that
I would have a ght with my mother-in-law and then my husband would ght
with me in the evening. At that time my mother-in-law would think ‘Let her
get beaten now. She deserves it.’ (She smiled at the memory.) Sometimes
these things would happen and I would take it for granted that on that day
I would get no support from her… But mostly she would support me. She
liked me so she would protect me… when I would come from work (as a
domestic help) she would be very sympathetic to me. She would say ‘Poor
thing, she has to work so hard. Give her something to eat’. I would feel very
good that she cared for me, worried for me.
Sabiha’s case is instructive because it suggests that while mothers-
in-law can, and do intercede, it is complicated. Involving her younger
brothers in resolving fights typically led to the fight escalating, and
delimited the role of her natal family. Sabiha had continued to work as
a domestic help and sometimes struggled to make ends meet; of her
three children, two had dropped out—her 15-year-old older daughter
was working as a maid, her 12-year-old son had dropped out and was
apprenticing with a tailor, and only her 13-year-old daughter conti-
nued at school. Sabiha was contemplating the marriage of her older
daughter using the logic that younger age would imply fewer dowry
demands, and was eager to marry her off into a family that made no
dowry demands.
190 Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics 27(2)
Sita and Babamma
Sita was Babamma’s daughter and was fourth among her ve children.
They were Vadaris who were from Andhra Pradesh and had migrated
to Maharashtra to work as construction labourers. Babamma’s father-
in-law had arrived 60 years earlier, claimed a piece of land and built a
temporary structure on what was an open eld at the time bordering a
creek and a small forest. His brothers followed suit, resulting in a joint
family like settlement, where they lived in one or two kholis (rooms)
next to one another. Subsequently they purchased more kholis and
leased them out to tenants. Babamma’s family had a thick network of kin
who lived in close proximity and their joint family was better off than
many of the other families, including some Maratha families. They had
considerable political and social inuence in the slum, but simultaneously
also attracted resentment from Marathas specially, who viewed them as
usurpers of the land. Babamma’s husband left them and remarried when
Sita was 10; having no children from the second marriage allowed him to
full his nancial obligations towards his rst wife and children, despite
setting up an independent household in another slum.
Sita had an older sister and three brothers. Nine years earlier just
after her sixteenth birthday, Sita and her older sister were married to
two brothers in a joint marriage ceremony, primarily at the behest of
Babamma, using the logic that if both sisters were to remain together
so they ‘… could take care of each other and the wedding expenses
would be minimized’. Babamma did not involve her father or other
relatives in this decision which aggravated her family considerably, and
they held her primarily responsible for the tragedy of Sita’s widowhood
and her subsequent return to her natal home. Sita had returned to her
natal household consisting of five uncles and their families as well as
two elder brothers, a younger brother and their wives and children,
six months after the birth of her third child. Her first child was conceived
within a year of her marriage; her subsequent pregnancies resulted in one
stillbirth and a third son. Her husband became progressively ill and she
did not want her infant son and 5-year old to be exposed him11. Since her
husband had been unemployed for the last five years, his brothers
financially supported the household. By the time my fieldwork had
ended, Sita’s husband had died and she decided to permanently stay on
in her natal household. With few employment options and just five years
of schooling, she started working as a domestic help while the extended
family of aunts, uncles, cousins and their wives took care of her two
children in return for her contributions to the household expenses.
Ghosh 191
The following conversation conducted in the initial phase of the
fieldwork highlights why it was possible to mitigate a shock, such as a
husband’s prolonged illness and subsequent death:
Sita: I liked staying in a joint family. For me a family is everything. They can
look after us and also provide ‘support’. Here also I had a big family there
(in-laws’ home) also I had a big family. I did not have any family problems.
However whatever I may do that is my sasural (in-laws). Eventually they will
blame me for something or the other. I have to think about my future. Even
if I do stay there (in-laws), no one cares. In this era everyone only looks after
S: If something happens to him (your husband), will you feel alone?
Sita: These two kids’ lives are dependent on me. I have to do what my brother
says… he is providing me with support. I want to bear the burden of my
own responsibility… He also has two children. They will soon become mar-
riageable. He also has a wife. He also has to think for himself… If he keeps
thinking about his sister, his wife may tell him tomorrow ‘that you are always
thinking about her children, what about me and my own children?’ It is not a
good idea that they ght because of me. That is why I need to work at least
a little… whether it is a man or a woman each person should carry his or
her burden. It is better to be responsible for one-self than have to hear other
people’s insults.
Sita was extremely pragmatic in her decisions and was clear that
though she was welcomed in her natal household, if she failed to contrib-
ute economically, their hospitality would not last. Living with her natal
family would also serve her children’s interests because they would be
cared for reasoning that ‘… whatever it might be my mother will take
care of me and my children. But in my in-laws, no one will take care of
my children. People will think “Oh their mother has gone to work. Let
the children go to hell, how do we care?”’ While Sita could not expect to
receive support indefinitely from her natal family, it was also true that
her kin had first absorbed the shock of her father’s abandonment in her
childhood, and later on the second shock of her husband’s sickness and
death in her adulthood.
Three key insights that are worth discussing emerge from these narratives:
age at marriage, the interactions between gender and birth order and the
mitigating role of natal families.
192 Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics 27(2)
Age at Marriage
The age at marriage and circumstances under which women were
married was one of the most critical factors that foreshadowed future
life outcomes. When a household was subjected to a single or multiple
shocks, families might be tempted to marry off their daughters not
necessarily to the most suitable man, but to the most convenient suitor
who happens to be present at that moment. In Shanti’s, Sabiha’s and
Priti’s cases, their natal families were both economically precarious and
oppressive, and were married off early on the initiative of their mothers
to relieve them of the economic and emotional hardships, as well as
to reduce the nancial pressures on the natal household. Families that
were not marked by physical violence or alcohol use, could still hasten
marriages of daughters because of their economic fragility that could
be exacerbated by certain events; in some instances crop failure and
landlessness forced rural farmers to migrate to urban areas; at other times,
life events such as a mother’s sickness and subsequent death triggered
the early marriage of an older daughter either because the household had
no female head or because of the step-mother’s interventions.
It is also important to locate early age at marriage in the normative
context of a slum that dictate that girls, especially from economically
vulnerable homes are married on attending puberty. The lack of educa-
tional and ‘respectable’ employment opportunities for women and the
desire to create micro-villages by rural migrants, governed by cultural
expectations similar to their villages, appear to be some of the contribut-
ing factors that pressurize families into early marriages of daughters. In
an urban slum, a girl who was single and several years past her puberty
prompted speculations that there was ‘something wrong with her’, thus
compromising her in the marriage market. Families often believed that
marriage safeguarded their young daughters from sexual predators as
well as conferred stability (economic or social) and increased their stand-
ing among their jatwalas (caste groups). This belief is not without ration-
ale, since marginal urban environments, such as slums, offer little
protection from victimization, particularly sexual violations and limited
opportunities for translating education into livelihoods, particularly
for women. A diffused sense of physical insecurity permeates these
spaces, where an alcoholic father’s friends may try to make advances
towards a young daughter or young men realizing that the father is inca-
pable of protecting his daughters may harass her. Sometimes young
women eloped to get respite from an abusive family, seeking refuge in a
boyfriend, as it happened with the daughters of one of the women who
Ghosh 193
participated in this study, with seriously adverse consequences for the
young woman. Thus, the clustering of economic and social disadvantages
and physical insecurity ultimately shaped women’s life trajectories.
Birth order
A girl’s birth order is an important predictor of age at marriage and
subsequent outcomes. While it could be a co-incidence, it is improbable
that all the women with the exception of Asifa, were the eldest daughters
in their families, which disadvantaged them in unique ways. The
responsibility for care of younger siblings in the absence of a mother
(or the presence of an ailing mother) automatically falls on the eldest
daughter as she is seen as a ‘mother substitute’, often at the costs of
her own welfare such as dropping out of school early. Marriage is still
considered the most signicant rite of passage for many Indian women,
particularly those in poverty. Families try to marry off their daughters
as best as they can and sometimes as quickly as they can believing that
younger age at marriage is associated with smaller dowries. The criterion
for marriage typically seems to be the apparent monetary stability of
the marital family and other parameters, such as age and compatibility
are acquiesced in the service of presumed material security. The factors
which led to the early and convenient marriages of these women are not
dissimilar from those that prevented women from obtaining or receiving
assistance from their families when they were subjected to violence.
Role of the Natal Family
In Sita’s and Babamma’s cases, neither fell into the quagmire of despe-
ration that typically accompanies abandonment or widowhood among
the poor. Babamma’s husband left her when both her eldest children
were working and though Sita was widowed, their safety nets were their
extended kin, notwithstanding the occasional conict inevitable in a
large family. Since Babamma’s husband continued to nancially support
his rst wife and children, the household was stable. Babamma as the
wife of the eldest brother commanded certain familial privileges, which
also helped consolidate Sita’s position when she returned. The pooled
nancial and emotional resources and social capital of two productive
brothers and three economically productive uncles, aunts and cousins
within this joint family ensured a steady and stable supply of assistance.
194 Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics 27(2)
Through this essay I have attempted to demonstrate the utility of household
insecurity as a construct that captures the non-linear and dynamic nature
of gender disadvantage. It encapsulates multiple dimensions and forms
of insecurity/constraints whether material, physical, socio-cultural or
sexual by identifying mechanisms through which the structural and
normative contexts gender vulnerabilities. The presence of a single or a
combination of constraints has the potential to trigger a chain of events
creating trajectories where women are able to exert little agency over
themselves or their lives.
The case studies reveal that often women are married young or
without much deliberation under the (frequently mistaken) assumption
that marriage would secure happiness, safety and economic well-being
of daughters. Methodologically using pairs of mothers and daughters
gives an intergenerational perspective that reveal the extent of com-
plexities and the limited possibilities for mitigation in the lives of the
poor. An ethnographic approach highlights the discursive relationship
between structural and family violence and shows that more often than
not the life paths and life chances of poor women are determined some-
times even before they are born. Being employed does not necessarily
translate to having capacities to leave an abusive marriage because of the
informality and poor pay of women’s work in slums and the lack of
alternative shelters. Thus, programmes to address domestic violence
need to go beyond the family as a site of intervention to account for the
role that systemic violence plays in the production of domestic violence
and must include measures that empower women to live financially and
emotionally independent lives.
1. I use the terms domestic violence, marital violence, physical abuse and wife-
beating interchangeably, in this study, to capture violence that a woman
experiences in her marital home which could be perpetrated by husbands
(in most examples) or by in-laws and includes within its ambit physical,
psychological, economic and/or sexual violence.
2. There were many instances of child marriages with girls being married as
young as 12. Women in their 20s had higher ages at marriage, compared to
women in their 40s.
3. Moderate levels of drinking were not seen as immoral and was well tolerated
by most wives. However, alcohol abuse was a serious problem in some of
the households. Physical violence resulting from alcohol was stigmatizing
Ghosh 195
both for the man directing the violence as well as women who were at the
receiving end of such violence, discussed in Ghosh (2011).
4. NFHS-3 indicates that neglecting home and children (39% of women; 30%
of husbands) and being disrespectful to in-laws (42% of women; 44% of
husbands), are the two most popular justifications of violence.
5. Schensul et al (2006) had similar findings in their study of sexual risk and
violence in a Mumbai slum.
6. Kamzori was a catch-all that included feeling unwell, lack of strength,
emotional fragility and women who had undergone tubectomy often reported
this as a side-effect of the procedure.
7. All conversations are reported verbatim.
8. Talking to Shanti was difficult because of her husband’s extreme surveil-
lance; he would sit with his friends playing cards, under the shade of a large
banyan tree, diagonally across the house, at the edge of the slum, with his
eyes fixed on her movements.
9. Panda and Agarwal (2005) found that women owning land or property had
significantly lower risks of being exposed to marital violence in Kerala that
women without property/land.
10. Conversations with unemployed husbands (particularly Marathas) whose
wives worked outside suggest that husbands still preferred women to work
in home-based enterprises since that is accompanied by a veneer of ‘respect-
ability’, especially because it does not require them to leave home.
11. Sita either did not know her husband’s condition or did not feel comfortable
sharing it with me. However, from the clinical symptoms, it appeared as if
he had tuberculosis.
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... Despite this increase, as per the report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as of 2017, in comparison to global divorce rates, India continues to have a lower divorce rate of 1% or 13 in 1000 marriages. The reasons for unstable marriage include many but the prominent ones to be named are domestic violence, real or perceived excessive influence from in-laws or a women's natal family (Ghosh, 2015;Grover, 2009;Mand, 2008), many of which have majorly become evident because of the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis. By the time of writing this article, it has been observed by the authors that the negative influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on India is largely unmeasured and indirect; an impact due to uncertainty, health anxiety, quarantine, isolation, separation or lockdown on psychological well-being are equally devastating (if not more), than the direct consequences of the corona virus on physical health. ...
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Marriage is a universally accepted institution despite the diversity of cultures, religions, and geographical variations. Any crisis that affects mankind invariably can have direct and indirect effects on marriage across the globe. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic seems no different and its effect on marriages is palpable with anticipation of complications related to marital problems even after the pandemic ends. On the other hand, a strong marriage can be major psychological support especially during these times of uncertainty and can contribute to the emotional well-being of both individuals as well as the family. Hence, this brief narrative explores the vulnerabilities of couples, factors contributing to marital distress, and possible solutions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic with an Indian perspective.
... Results showed that, in Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil, pregnancy did not protect a woman from suffering domestic violence. Ghosh( 2015) examined The Political Economy of Domestic Violence in a Mumbai Slum. This paper studied the structural violence contributes to domestic violence and also systematically disadvantages women by forcing them to drop out of school, reduces labour force participation and prevents women from leaving abusive marriages. ...
Conference Paper
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The present study examined the association between the extent of time spent on social networking sites (SNS) by spouse and quality of marital life, in a sample of 150 young couples, using the conceptual frame work of Jane Lanigan’ssociotechnological family model.Three tools were used, a structured questionnaires with two parts- section A: questionnaire for demographic variable , and section B: questionnaire for assessing the time spent on SNS by spouse, a likert scale for assessing partner perception of SNS use by spouse and a rating scales (marital quality scale by Dr. Shah ,1995) for assessing quality of marital life. Pilot study was conducted and study was found to be feasible. Majority of the study participants were using more than one SNS. As per the findings, Facebook and Watsappranked first, followed by Twitter and LinkedIn, among the different SNS used by study participants, Majority of the study participants were having a positive perception regarding the SNS usage of their spouses.Very few holds negative perception. Majority of the participants said that their spouse often spent quality time with children even though they spent too much time in SNS. Almost one fourth of the study participants spent one to two hours each day on online SNS. Most of the participants spent more than 2 hours on SNS. The good quality of marital life of study participants holds a downtrend with increasing duration of time spent on SNS by spouse. Most of the study participants have poor quality of marital life. There was significant association between the time spent on SNS and quality of marital life. The increasing usage of online SNS by spouse is associated with decreasing quality of marital life. There were significant association between quality of marital life of young couples and gender, occupation of spouse and number of children.
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his book examines the prevailing legal discourse surrounding domestic violence law in India. It investigates the myths, patriarchal stereotypes, and misconceptions that undermine the process of justice and dilute legal provisions to the detriment of survivors. The volume: Develops arguments based on legal case studies and draws extensively on knowledge from various fields of study, as well as the experience of women survivors. Examines fallacies within the legal framework through a study of strategic lawsuits against public participation suits within the Indian context. Proposes measures for a fair and more gender inclusive legal system that focuses on facilitating access to justice. Suggests that emphasis be laid on establishing the rule of law and eliminating the culture of violence. A key text on gender and law in India, this book will be indispensable to scholars and researchers of socio-legal studies, law, gender, human rights, women’s studies, social science, political science, and feminist jurisprudence in South Asia. It will also be of interest to NGOs, activists, and lawyers.
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Objective: In addition to the many social, economic, cultural, security, and environmental problems in the metropolitan areas, suburbanization has led to the growth and spread of domestic violence against women, and is still increasing. Different social determinants can play a role in violence against suburban women, so this study was designed to investigate the social determinants of domestic violence in suburban women of developing countries. Methods: According to PRISMA guideline, the keywords, which were determined considering MESH, were searched in Google Scholar, MEDLINE, SID, Web of Science, Pubmed, Scopus and Science Direct with the 2009 to 2019 time limit. STROBE checklist was used for evaluating quantitative studies and JBI for qualitative studies. Finally 30 high quality studies were included. Results: The prevalence of general domestic violence among women of different ages was reported between 2.3-73.78% in the suburban regions of developing countries. The prevalence of physical, emotional and psychological violence was about 11.54-61.6% and 7.8-84.3%. The prevalence of sexual,economic and the verbal violence was about 0.8-58.8%, 13.7- 43.7% and 33.21-86.1%. The most common factors affecting violence against women were the structural factors of early marriage, the husband's addiction to alcohol and drugs. Conclusion: General domestic violence and its various types are prevalent in different parts of the world and the factors affecting domestic violence such as age, marriage age, low literacy, husband addiction to alcohol and drugs are all things that can be prevented by special health planning in these areas to improve women's health and thus prevent violence against suburban women.
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This book critically examines domestic violence law in India. It focuses on women’s experiences and perspectives as victims and litigants with regard to accessibility to law and justice. It also reflects on the manner in which the legal process reproduces gender hierarchies. This volume: • Analyzes the legal framework from a gender perspective to pinpoint the inherent stereotypes, prejudices and discriminatory practices that come into play while interpreting the law; • Includes in-depth interviews and case studies, and explores critical themes such as marriage, rights, family, violence, property and the state; • Presents alternatives beyond the domain of law, such as qualitative medical care and legal aid facilities, shelter homes, short-stay homes, childcare facilities, and economic and social security provisions to survivors and their children. Drawing on extensive testimonies and ethnographic studies situated in a theoretical framework of law, this book will be of great interest to scholars and researchers of law, gender, human rights, women’s studies, sociology and social anthropology and South Asian studies.
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Inequitable gender norms can be harmful to girls’ and boys’ health and sexuality. Programmatic approaches that help renegotiate gendered power relationships are sorely needed. This qualitative study reveals how Parivartan, a sport-based intervention in a Mumbai informal settlement, helped families resist inequitable gender norms that limited girls’ mobility in public spaces. Fifteen girl athletes were interviewed in two rounds of face-to-face in-depth interviews. Results identify the strategies girls’ mothers used to support their daughters’ participation in the programme when they feared their husbands’ disapproval. Rather than openly confronting their husbands, mothers worked from within the patriarchal gender order, through its ‘cracks’, for instance initially hiding their daughters’ participation from their husbands. At an appropriate moment, girls’ mothers revealed to their husbands about their daughters playing sports, convincing them of the usefulness of the programme. Girls’ participation profoundly and positively affected relationships between daughters, mothers and fathers. Over time, parents’ trust that girls would not compromise family honour increased, eventually changing the acceptability of girls’ playing sport in public in spite of the patriarchal gender order. Concluding remarks offer key implications for effective interventions, highlighting the historical nature of gender transformation processes.
Why are Indian women’s lives at fatal risk in the public sphere, when Indian democracy is inclusive in terms of gender? Addressing this question reveals a methodological and theoretical blind spot in political science scholarship – a blind spot which results in the reproduction and legitimization of gender-blindness. To understand how and why political science reproduces and legitimizes gender-blindness I reflect on a particularly horrific case of sexual and gender-based violence, the 2012 Delhi gang rape. This analysis is significant because it provides insight into the difficulty of understanding gendered violence in political science and achieving gender equality within democratic societies.
: If development means the expansion of human capabilities, then freedom from domestic violence should be an integral part of any exercise for evaluating developmental progress. This paper focuses on a hitherto unexplored factor underlying women’s risk of marital violence, namely, women’s property status. Many studies have examined the scale and correlates of marital violence, but neglected this dimension. Based on a household survey in Kerala (India), the authors assess the prevalence and correlates of both physical and psychological violence—long term and current. Women owning immovable property (land or a house) are found to face a significantly lower risk of marital violence than propertyless women. This has implications for development policy.
The relationship between partner alcohol use and violence as risk factors for poor mental health in women is unclear. To describe partner-related and other psychosocial risk factors for common mental disorders in women and examine interrelationships between these factors. Data are reported on 821 women aged 18-49 years from a larger population study in north Goa, India. Logistic regression models evaluated the risks for women's common mental disorders and tested for mediation effects in the relationship between partner alcohol use and these disorders. Excessive partner alcohol use increased the risk for common mental disorders two- to threefold. Partner violence and alcohol-related problems each partially mediated the association between partner excessive alcohol use and these mental disorders. Women's own violence-related attitudes were also independently associated with them. Partner alcohol use, partner violence and women's violence-related attitudes must be addressed to prevent and treat common mental disorders in women.
Research on marriage in developing countries has been somewhat narrow in scope because of both conceptual and data limitations. While the feminist literature recognizes marriage as a key institutional site for the production and reproduction of gender hierarchies, little is known about the processes through which this relationship operates. This article uses data from the newly collected India Human Development Survey 2005 for 27,365 ever-married women aged 25-49 to explore ways in which different dimensions of gender in Indian society shape the decisions regarding age at marriage. We explore the impact of three dimensions of gender: (I) economic factors, such as availability of wage employment, dowry expectations, and wedding expenses; (2) indicators of familial empowerment, such as women s role in household decision making and access to and control over resources; and (3) markers of gender performance, such as observance of purdah and male-female separation in the household. Results from hierarchical linear models confirm the importance of markers of gender performance but fail to demonstrate a large role for economic factors and familial empowerment.
Objectives. We examined individual- and community-level influences on domestic violence in Uttar Pradesh, North India. Methods. Multilevel modeling was used to explore domestic violence outcomes among a sample of 4520 married men. Results. Recent physical and sexual domestic violence was associated with the individual-level variables of childlessness, economic pressure, and intergenerational transmission of violence. A community environment of violent crime was associated with elevated risks of both physical and sexual violence. Community-level norms concerning wife beating were significantly related only to physical violence. Conclusions. Important similarities as well as differences were evident in risk factors for physical and sexual domestic violence. Higher socioeconomic status was found to be protective against physical but not sexual violence. Our results provide additional support for the importance of contextual factors in shaping women's risks of physical and sexual violence. (Am J Public Health. 2006;96:132-138.)