Context: Wife abuse has been associated with a variety of health concerns. Associations between abuse and reproductive health in India are not well known.
Objective: To examine relationships between men's reports of wife abuse and reproductive health issues in northern India.
Design: Structured face-to-face interviews were conducted as part of the male reproductive health supplement of the PERFORM System of Indicators Survey, a systematic multistage survey conducted in 1995-1996.
Setting: The northern state of Uttar Pradesh, one of the least developed states in India.
Participants: A total of 6632 married men aged 15 to 65 years who lived with their wives and completed all survey questions for the study variables reported here.
Main measures: Physically and sexually abusive behaviors toward wives, sexual activities outside marriage, sexually transmitted disease (STD) symptoms, contraception use, unplanned pregnancies, and sociodemographic characteristics.
Results: Fifty-four percent of men reported not abusing their wives, while 17% reported physically but not sexually abusing their wives, 22% reported sexual abuse without physical force, and 7% reported sexual abuse with physical force. Abuse was more common among men who had extramarital sex (for sexual abuse using force: odds ratio [OR], 6.22; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.98-9.72). Similarly, men who had STD symptoms were more likely to abuse their wives (with current symptoms: OR, 2.43; 95% CI, 1.73-3.42). Unplanned pregnancies were significantly more common among wives of abusive men, especially sexually abusive men who used force (OR, 2.62; 95% CI, 1.91-3.60).
Conclusions: Wife abuse appears to be fairly common in northern India. Our findings that abusive men were more likely to engage in extramarital sex and have STD symptoms suggest that these men may be acquiring STDs from their extramarital relationships, thereby placing their wives at risk for STD acquisition, sometimes via sexual abuse. These abusive sexual behaviors also may result in an elevated rate of unplanned pregnancies.