Violence against women in India: evidence from rural Maharashtra, India

Rural Remote Health. 2004 Oct-Dec;4(4):304. Epub 2004 Nov 22.


Introduction: In recent years violence against women has emerged as an important social problem in India. It has attracted the attention of a wide spectrum of agencies, from healthcare providers to law enforcement authorities. This study attempted to determine the characteristics and the magnitude of physical and psychological violence against women in rural Maharashtra, central India.

Methods: The study initially undertook focus group activities. This was followed by the formulation of the survey instrument in English, which focused on partner violence and child disciplinary practices. After pre-testing the instrument in 25 households, the actual study was conducted by trained interviewers in five randomly selected villages of rural Maharashtra. The study included 500 households (sample size = 500 women, eligible if they had at least one child less than 18 years of age).

Results: The results revealed that of the women interviewed, almost one-third (30.4%) had no formal education and the women's husbands were better educated. More than half the women lived in one-room dwellings and were at or above the clinical cut-off point for depression on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). 38% of the women were verbally insulted by their husband with a median of 11 times in past 6 months. Almost half the women said they had been slapped, hit, kicked or beaten by their husbands at some time. 24% of the women reported having been kicked by their husbands at some point during their married life, and 44% were reportedly kicked during pregnancy. 12% were specifically threatened by their husbands with having kerosene oil poured on them to set them on fire. 30% of the physically assaulted victims required medical care.

Conclusions: Considering the prevalence of domestic violence, health-care providers should screen for domestic violence in routine practice. In addition, protocols should be developed for referral of abused women to appropriate community resources. In the present Indian rural setting, solutions to domestic violence must be found within the social structure of the family and the community.