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Physical, emotional and sexual violence faced by spouses in India: evidence on determinants and help-seeking behaviour from a nationally representative survey


Objective The current study was done to determine the prevalence, determinants, disclosure status and help-seeking behaviour of spousal violence using a nationally representative sample of ever-married women in India.

Methods We have analysed the most recent National Family Health Survey-4 data (2015–2016) gathered from the Demographic Health Survey programme. Stratification and clustering in the sample design were accounted using svyset command. Point estimates were reported as proportions with 95% CI.

Results A total of 66 013 ever-married women aged 15–49 years were included. Lifetime prevalence of spousal violence in India was 31% (95% CI 30.4% to 31.7%). Physical violence was the most common form accounting for 27.4% of victims followed by emotional (12.7%) and sexual violence (6.7%). Higher women’s age, Muslim religion, low education, employed women, lower socioeconomic status, presence of substance use among women and husbands, lower education and unemployed husbands, history of family violence and women in Central and Eastern states had a significant association with one or more forms of spousal violence with significant p value. Prevalence of help-seeking behaviour among women who faced spousal violence in India was 13.5% (95% CI 12.8% to 14.2%). Widowed/separated/divorced women, employed and highly educated women, and women in Northern states had significantly higher prevalence of help-seeking behaviour with respect to all the forms of spousal violence (p<0.001).

Conclusion One in three women in India faces spousal violence. Only 1 in 10 women seeks help following violence. Efforts should be made to ensure people working in formal institutions screen for spousal violence and know how to respond to women facing it.

  • Public health
  • Qualitative research
  • India
  • Epidemiology of chronic non-communicable diseases
  • Addictive behaviour/addiction
  • Meta-analysis

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