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Violence against pregnant wives rampant: study

KARACHI, June 13: A large number of women who are verbally and physically abused at the hands of their aggressive husbands during their pregnancies run a far greater risk of having low birth weight babies, miscarriages, abortions, premature labour and several other gynaecological disorders.

A study conducted by some students of the University of Karachi states that even pregnancy does not change the attitude of an aggressive man towards his wife and the violent behaviour continues unabated.

The research – Consequences of domestic violence during pregnancy – conducted by Shakila A. Rehman and Mohammad Shahid, students of geography and social work departments of the KU, has been published in the recently released Pakistan Journal of Gender Studies by the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Studies, KU.

The study based on a cross-sectional survey was carried out in Madina Colony, a squatter settlement located in Gulshan-i-Iqbal. A sample of around 50 women was drawn from the entire population for research purpose.

As per the research findings, 52 per cent of the respondents complained of verbal abuse while 36 per cent were subjected to physical torture at the hands of their husbands during pregnancy. The study revealed that incidents of physical violence occurred several times during pregnancy.

More than half of the respondents felt mentally tortured by the use of insulting and abusive language by their spouses. Sharing their experiences a few of the respondents said that their husbands pulled their hair or threw anything at them in a fit of anger.

In many cases, abusive husbands threatened their wives of marrying another women or leaving them in case of giving birth to a daughter.

The women who reported physical violence during pregnancy also said that their husbands were either drug addicts or unemployed and had zero-tolerance against anything which they perceived offensive.

Shedding light on the prevalence of sexual violence, they study said that it was difficult to measure the incidence of sexual violence among conservative and uneducated low-income groups where women were not even aware of the concept of ‘forced sex’.

All women who participated in the survey considered it as a right of their husbands to have sex with them whenever they desired.

However, when different questions were posed, 30 per cent of the respondents did admit to being forced into having sex many times by their husbands during pregnancy. There were about 20 per cent cases in which pregnant women were physically and verbally abused at the hands of their husbands, but at the same time they maintained that their husbands also took care of them during the period. These women said that the violent behaviour of their husbands didn’t bother them as it wasn’t a lasting mood.

The research findings confirm previous studies on the subject, according to which, violence during pregnancy is linked to a history of violence prior to the pregnancy, and majority of women who are abused during pregnancy were also abused before and after pregnancy.

A majority of women who participated in the survey complained of mental distress during pregnancy and even after childbirth. There were 20 per cent cases of premature birth and low birth weight babies. Four per cent reported miscarriage due to physical violence.

The report says that verbal, physical and sexual violence against womenfolk increases the risks of many gynaecological disorders including chronic pelvic pain, irregular vaginal bleeding and discharge, painful menstruation and pelvic inflammatory diseases while it can also have a severe detrimental effect on women’s mental health as well as on a child’s physiological and psychological development.

All respondents in the research fell in the age group 20 to 39, about 56 per cent were living in extended families and only 22 per cent were literate. Those who were literate had elementary schooling for not more than three years. About 56 per cent of the respondents were employed. Around 24 per cent of the women interviewed during the research had six or more children.
Source: Dawn