About 40 per cent of ever married women in India have experienced physical or sexual violence at some stage with Bihar having the dubious distinction of highest number of spousal violence cases, the National Family Health Survey-III has revealed.
The final report of NFHS-III report released on Thursday said married women with no education were 46 per cent more likely to suffer from spousal violence than those having some education.
However, spousal violence extended to women who have 12 or more years of higher education, with 12 per cent of them reporting violence. Women in Himachal Pradesh suffered the least violence (6 per cent), the report revealed.
The final report released by Mission Director of the National Rural Health Mission G C Chaturvedi painted a mixed picture of India's overall reproductive health status.
On the one hand, women are having fewer children and infant mortality has dropped in the last seven years since the last NFHS survey in 1998-99. On the other hand, anaemia and malnutrition are still widespread among children and adults.
In an unusual juxtaposition, more adults, especially urban women, are overweight or obese than they were seven years ago.
It revealed that smaller families are slowly becoming the norm with fertility dropping to an average of 2.7 children from 2.9 children in the NFHS-2. Ten states, mostly in Southern India, have reached replacement level or below replacement level fertility.
While son preference remains a barrier to more rapid decline in fertility, an increasing number of mothers with only daughters say they want no more children.
In NFHS-3, 62 per cent women with two daughters and no sons say they want no more children, compared with 47 per cent seven years ago in NFHS-2.
Declining fertility could be attributed largely to women's increased use of contraception. For the first time ever, more than half of currently married women in India are using contraception, and their use of modern contraceptive methods increased from 43 to 49 per cent between NFHS-2 and NFHS-3.
A rise in the average age at marriage is also contributing to the drop in fertility. Forty-five per cent women between 20-24 years of age were married before attaining legal age of maturity of 18 years, compared with 50 per cent seven years earlier. This shift in age of marriage also influences the median age at first birth, which has increased by six months to 19.8 years.