A natural disaster and intimate partner violence: Evidence over time

Soc Sci Med. 2020 Jan 15:247:112804. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.112804. Online ahead of print.


Natural disasters affect about 200 million people annually. Heightened intimate partner violence (IPV) is a gendered impact of these disruptive events. This study examines prevalence and correlates of IPV in four Indian states-TamilNadu, Kerala, AndhraPradesh, and Karnataka-before and after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. Drawing on three waves of National Family Health Surveys of India-six years before, immediately after, and a decade after disaster, this paper evaluates if TamilNadu and Kerala (severely affected) exhibited higher prevalence of IPV than AndhraPradesh (moderately affected) and Karnataka (not directly affected). Logistic regression analyses determine association between IPV, state of residence (proxy for experience of disaster), and other covariates. To test hypotheses guided by vulnerability theory, IPV was regressed on socio-economic and demographic predictors for states across waves. IPV increased by 48% between 2005 and 2015. Increase in physical (61%) and sexual (232%) violence was highest in TamilNadu; emotional violence increased by 122% in Karnataka. State of residence was associated with IPV in the aftermath of disaster. In 2005, compared to Karnataka, odds of IPV were 98% higher in TamilNadu and 41% higher in Kerala. A decade after, odds were two times higher in TamilNadu than in Karnataka. Belonging to disadvantaged groups predicted higher odds of IPV in the year after disaster. Higher socio-economic status predicted lower odds of IPV, except in Kerala. Data point to ways in which socio-economic and demographic vulnerabilities factor into risk of IPV after disaster. Demographic factors of religion and caste appear to lose significance over time, but socio-economic factors continue to matter. Disaster response strategies seldom work without tackling long-standing inequities. Appropriate support systems for women and minorities in non-disaster situations are critical to ensure their conditions are not exacerbated.

Keywords: Disasters; Gender; Intimate partner violence; Vulnerability.