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Stud Fam Plann. 1998 Sep;29(3):300-8.

Associations between wife-beating and fetal and infant death: impressions from a survey in rural India.

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  • 1Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.


This report examines the linkages between wife-beating and one health-related consequence for women, their experience of fetal and infant mortality. Community-based data are used drawn from women surveyed in two culturally distinct sites of rural India: Uttar Pradesh in the north, in which gender relations are highly stratified, and Tamil Nadu in the south, in which they are more egalitarian. Results suggest that wife-beating is deeply entrenched, that attitudes uniformly justify wife-beating, and that few women can escape an abusive marriage. They also suggest that the health consequences of domestic violence--in terms of pregnancy loss and infant mortality--are considerable and that Indian women's experience of infant and fetal mortality is powerfully conditioned by the strength of the patriarchal social system. Results are tentative because of data limitations, but they are consistent and strong enough to warrant concern. They argue for the integration of services to identify, refer, and prevent domestic violence in the primary or reproductive health programs of the country and for the safe motherhood programs to be particularly vigilant, sensitive, and responsive to the conditions of battered women during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

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