Health

Physical violence during pregnancy high in rural areas: NFHS-5

People living in rural areas must be made aware of the adverse outcomes related to physical violence during pregnancy

 
Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE
Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE

In India, physical violence among married women aged 18-49 years during any pregnancy has decreased overall in most of the states. This is according to the factsheet of 18 states in the first round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5, released by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, that provides data on the reproductive history of women.

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, defines violence against women as:

Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life

Threatening motherhood has mostly been associated with adverse health conditions for the mother as well as the baby. During pregnancy, violence can be a serious health consequence that could affect both the mother and the baby.

The situation of physical violence is present all around the world regardless of socioeconomic conditions.

The World Health Organization says men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they have low education, a history of child maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, harmful use of alcohol, unequal gender norms including attitudes accepting of violence and a sense of entitlement over women.

As a consequence, physical violence during pregnancy also increases the likelihood of miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term delivery and low birth weight babies as stated by the United Nations.

According to the NFHS-5,  Maharashtra reported an increase in the overall physical violence percentage in the past half-decade. Some of the northeastern states reported an increase.

Bihar reported an overall decrease in the percentage of overall violence to 2.8 in 2019-20, from 4.8 in 2015-16. It was followed by Telangana where the percentage of violence reduced to 4 from 5.9, Sikkim (0.4 from 1.9) and West Bengal (3.5 from 5).

Total married women aged 18-49 years who have experienced physical violence during any pregnancy (%), 2015-16 to 2019-20

Red and yellow circles, respectively, denote the values for the years 2015-16 and 2019-20. The chart includes states surveyed in the first phase of NFHS-5. Chart: Authors Source: NFHS-5 (2019-20) and NFHS-4 (2015-16)

Rural areas in most Indian states reported reports more physical violence during pregnancy in  2019-20, except Assam, Gujarat, Kerala, Meghalaya and Mizoram.

 Urban-Rural difference of physical violence during pregnancy in 2019-20

Blue and Light blue bars, respectively, denote the values for the urban and rural respectively. The chart includes states surveyed in the first phase of NFHS-5.Chart: Authors Source: NFHS-5 (2019-20)

Among rural married women, eight out of 18 states showed an increase in physical violence during pregnancy. The major increase during 2015-2020 was seen in the state of Karnataka (6.4 from 4.9) while a significant increase was seen in Goa, Meghalaya, Assam, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur and Tripura. 

Married women aged 18-49 years residing in rural areas who have experienced physical violence during any pregnancy (%), 2015-16 to 2019-20

Red and yellow circles, respectively, denote the values for the years 2015-16 and 2019-20. The chart includes states surveyed in the first phase of NFHS-5. Chart: Authors Source: NFHS-5 (2019-20) and NFHS-4 (2015-16)

The urban areas reported a lower percentage as compared to rural areas of the states. In urban areas, the major decline in the past half-decade was reported in Bihar (1.9 from 6.8) followed by Karnataka (4.9 from 8.7), West Bengal (2.3 from 5.4) and Telangana (2.1 from 4.4). While in urban areas there was a significant increase in the percentage in the states of Meghalaya (2.4 from 0.5), Gujarat (2.2 from 0.4) and Assam (2.3 from 1.8).

Ever-married women age 18-49 years residing in urban areas who have experienced physical violence during any pregnancy (%), 2015-16 to 2019-20

Red and yellow circles, respectively, denote the values for the years 2015-16 and 2019-20. The chart includes states surveyed in the first phase of NFHS-5.Chart: Authors Source: NFHS-5 (2019-20) and NFHS-4 (2015-16)

Physical violence is still high in rural communities, compared to urban areas. It is a matter of utmost importance to look into this aspect and make people living in rural areas aware of the adverse outcomes related to physical violence during pregnancy.

Rather than the physical harm that the woman faces, the longer adverse outcome is the psychological pressure and distress that she goes through during pregnancy. This distress results in adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth, perinatal deaths, stillbirths and miscarriages. The woman also faces pregnancy complications as a result.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth 

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