Women’s Autonomy and Experience of Physical Violence within Marriage in Rural India: Evidence from a Prospective Study

Shagun Sabarwal, Population Council
K.G. Santhya, Population Council
Shireen J. Jejeebhoy, Population Council

We investigated the role of changes in women’s autonomy over time in influencing risk of martial violence (MV) using prospective data. We used data on 4,904 rural Indian women drawn from two linked studies: the NFHS-2, conducted in 1998-99 and a follow-up study for a subgroup of women carried out in 2002-03. Three dimensions of autonomy were used: financial autonomy, freedom of movement and household decision-making. MV was measured as experience of physical violence in the year prior to the follow-up survey. Findings indicate the protective effects of financial autonomy and freedom of movement in reducing the risk of MV, with financial autonomy exerting the strongest effect. Our study provides more conclusive evidence on the importance of increased autonomy among women. Results argue for an increased focus on strategies aimed at improving women’s financial status through livelihood skill-building opportunities, development of a strong savings orientation and asset building options.

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Presented in Session 146: Gender-Based Violence