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Does Rural Society Construct Marital Abuse Differently? Lived Experiences of Women in Central India. Lynette J. Menezes, Ph.D. Martha L. Coulter, Dr. P.H.

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Presentation on theme: "Does Rural Society Construct Marital Abuse Differently? Lived Experiences of Women in Central India. Lynette J. Menezes, Ph.D. Martha L. Coulter, Dr. P.H."— Presentation transcript:

1 Does Rural Society Construct Marital Abuse Differently? Lived Experiences of Women in Central India. Lynette J. Menezes, Ph.D. Martha L. Coulter, Dr. P.H. Paper Presented at the 131 st Annual APHA meeting November 17, 2003

2 Presentation Outline Literature review & theoretical framework Research questions Methodology Results Interpretation & Discussion Implications for research and practice

3 Indian Nation Located in the Asian continent Demographics and background population – 1.027 billion ethnically diverse low female to male ratio low rates of female literacy Health care unavailable to many

4 Marital Abuse Constructed as a private domestic matter 25% to 43% of women victimized in lifetime 28% to 69% of rural women 5% to 22% report abuse during pregnancy Dowry* related abuse is a serious issue Public health implications

5 Social Constructionism Central premise reality and the phenomena of life are socially constructed (Berger & Luckmann, 1966) Recognizes: multiple realities participants’ definitions of a problem rather than experts Applicable to most health problems

6 Research Questions To understand the process that leads to Indian women defining marital abuse during pregnancy and at other times: a) How do women evaluate their own experiences of abuse? b) How are women influenced by family members’ perceptions of marital abuse? c) What are the perceptions of community members regarding abuse and how do they influence women’s perception of marital abuse? d) What are the different forms of abuse that women identify?

7 Research Design Qualitative ethnographic design Data collection tools unstructured individual interviews focus group interviews Study site Saoner Block located in Maharashtra, India


9 Individual Interviews (N=43) * Pregnant women older than 25 without children were difficult to identify Pregnant women older than 30 could not be identified ** One additional woman who had never been pregnant and is not included in this matrix was interviewed. (N= 43) PregnantNon-pregnant Age GroupChildrenNo childrenChildren 18-248103 25-42*5115

10 Study Sample Demographics of women respondents age: 18 – 42 years education: Three-fourths had less than 9 years three quarters had children majority Hindus, a few Muslims one-third employed most lived in one to two-room dwellings majority did not own a television

11 Analysis & Interpretation Transcription interviews were transcribed verbatim data entered into Ethnograph 5.0 Analysis item level - coding pattern level constituents or structures Interpretation re-reading of all patterns drawing conclusions

12 How do Rural Women Describe Abuse? Most women described abuse as acts: which cause immense difficulties or worries which are wrong, bad, evil which are physical in nature The term atyachaar/zulm (violence) used by: educated women and a few Muslim women No categorization of acts In-law abuse was also identified

13 Explanations for Abuse Husband’s problem drinking collectively perceived as causative viewed as changing men’s behavior Insufficient dowry perceived by women, some providers and women police Personality traits of the husband angry, moody, tense, suspicious perceived by some participants from all groups

14 Explanations for Abuse - 2 Non-fulfillment of traditional roles cooking, caring for family, fertility, male heirs Provocative behavior of the in-laws role as secondary aggressors

15 Women’s Responses to Abuse Immediate responses argue back, keep quiet, visit natal family Long-term responses staying in a relationship lack of social support & resources, children family honor & belief in fate l eaving the relationship strong social support belief that husband will not change hope of future reunification

16 Construction of Abuse During Pregnancy Perceptions of abuse during pregnancy a serious issue an additional ‘tension’ for the victim only alcoholics beat pregnant women neglect of pregnant women Community perceptions more likely to intervene family support easily available

17 Construction of Abuse at Other Times Abuse viewed as a private domestic matter by community members resulted in negative social support likely to intervene if severe assault Participants’ responses reflect similar sentiment intervening equated to interfering

18 Interpretation Lack of a popular terminology to describe marital abuse women frame it as wife-beating Rural women’s lexicon for abuse is different from experts and activists women evaluate abuse based on personal experiences lack opportunity for new social interactions findings raise methodological issues

19 Interpretation - 2 Explanations for abuse need to deflect blame from husband stereotype that abusive behavior is normal for alcoholics is dangerous for women Marital abuse is dowry-related violence lack of exposure to new social claims

20 Interpretation - 3 Non-fulfillment of traditional roles similar to patriarchal views in other cultures Responses to abuse reduced social networks adopt minimal strategies of resistance belief in the permanency of marriage

21 Interpretation - 4 Abuse during pregnancy is more serious motherhood valued constructing pregnant victim as “vulnerable” Abuse as a domestic matter similar to early findings in the west and recent findings in other cultures preservation of family unit

22 Recommendations for Research & Practice Implications for developing a screening tool Explore how mothers-in-law define abuse Explore men’s constructions Dissemination of findings One-stop center for legal and social services Community-based prevention programs women’s support groups

23 Conclusions Findings support theoretical framework Unique native terminology Implications for measurement of violence Several collective explanations for abuse Abuse as a private matter implications for women’s responses Address abuse during pregnancy Need for prevention and intervention programs

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