New York: A study has found that women in India who are more educated than their husbands, earn more or who are the sole earners experience frequent and severe intimate partner violence (IPV) than women who are not employed or less educated than their spouse.
Abigail Weitzman, a graduate student at New York University, looked at data from the female-only module of India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS) collected between 2005 and 2006.
This module contained data from a nationally representative sample of women aged 15-49 and included nine variables pertaining to IPV.
It also asked a number of questions about women’s current employment, relative earnings, and access to other money.
She found that compared to women with less education than their husbands, women with more education face 1.4 times the risk of IPV, 1.54 times the risk of frequent violence and 1.36 times the risk of severe violence.
She found a similar pattern for women who were better employed than their spouse.
And women who were the sole breadwinners in their family faced 2.44 times the risk of frequent violence and 1.51 times the risk of severe violence as unemployed women whose husbands were employed.
“Our study supports the theory known as gender deviance neutralisation. It suggests that a woman’s superior resources would be viewed as gender deviant and a man would use violence to gain power or maintain control in the relationship,” Weitzman commented.
The research suggests that there can be a backlash, including violence, toward women who attain greater education or earnings than their husbands.
“Our response should not be to stop educating and employing women, but nor should we plow ahead without recognising this may put them at greater risk, and making changes to help protect them,” she noted.
Weitzman recommends that policies aimed at addressing IPV should focus on alternatives to divorce such as shelters and support groups.
Microfinance and vocational programmes for women should consider making legal and psychological counseling available to participants, said the paper published in the latest issue of Population and Development Review, a journal published by the Population Council.