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Women not safe in Kerala homes: study

J Ramakrishnan in Thiruvananthapuram | July 18, 2005 16:37 IST

Despite cent per cent literacy, achievements in the health sector and low infant mortality and fertility rates, domestic violence against women is on the rise in Kerala, a study said.

The most common form of violence against women is physical, followed by psychological harassment, economic neglect and sexual abuse, the study, conducted by 'Sakhi', a non-governmental organisation, said. It was done for the state Health Departmenton on gender-based violence in Kerala.

About 40 per cent of women interviewed admitted that they were victims of domestic violence.

The study brought out that about 11 per cent of mothers said they had been subjects of sexual abuse in their childhood and nearly 12 per cent of their daughters had also been victims of childhood sexual exploitation.

The respondents said most of them were victims of violence unleashed by their husbands and a sizeable number of women were injured badly enough to be rushed to the casuality wing in hospitals.

Alcoholism, suspicion, financial worries and dowry-related quarrels usually provided the spark for family violence, Sakhi co-ordinator Aleyamma Vijayan told PTI.

Nearly 900 housewives were interviewed for the study, which  was conducted between October 2003 and February 2004 in randomly selected panchayats in Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Palakkad districts.

Women were subjected to domestic violence regardless of their caste, religion, educational status, social and economic background, the study said.

There was no marked variation with regard to experience of violence in the previous one-year among the respondents between the three districts and "it may be inferred that incidence of violence is rising in other districts and that the trend is becoming fairly uniform in the state," the report said.

The report pointed out that the state's public health system was lacking in support services for survivors of domestic violence.

Of the families covered by the study, Hindus constituted 70.3 per cent, Muslims 16.9 per cent and Christians 12.7  per cent.

Having been subjected to dowry demand before and after marriage and having no say in matters related to contraception and sex emerged as factors most significantly associated with lifetime experience of violence, the report said.

An interesting aspect of the study was that almost one-third of the women believed that a husband had a right to beat his wife. All the same, the majority believed that they had a right to react as well.

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