Intimate partner violence and forced migration during pregnancy: Structural constraints to women's agency

Glob Public Health. 2016;11(1-2):153-68. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2015.1030684. Epub 2015 May 21.


Little is known about migration during pregnancy related to intimate partner violence (IPV). In this paper, we examine issues of agency in relation to pregnant women's migrations in a high HIV prevalence area of Kenya. We qualitatively explored forced migration among pregnant women, using data from in-depth interviews, focus groups and IPV screening forms. To quantitatively examine migration during pregnancy, we analysed data from a prospective study of 614 pregnant women. The qualitative data revealed that women had varied responses to violence in pregnancy, with some being able to leave the marital home voluntarily as a strategy to escape violence. Others were 'sent packing' from their marital homes when they dared to exercise autonomy, in some cases related to HIV status. Quantitative analyses revealed that pregnant women who migrated were more educated, less likely to be living with a partner and had fewer children than other women. Migration among pregnant women in Kenya illustrates the complexity of understanding women's agency in the context of IPV. The findings indicate that there is not a dichotomy between 'victim' and 'agent', but rather a complex dynamic between and within pregnant women, who may sequentially or simultaneously experience aspects of victimhood and/or agentic response.

Keywords: Africa; HIV/AIDS; intimate partner violence; migration; pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Coercion
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Gender Identity
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Intimate Partner Violence / economics
  • Intimate Partner Violence / psychology*
  • Intimate Partner Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Stigma*
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Rights / economics
  • Women's Rights / standards*
  • Women's Rights / trends
  • Young Adult