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Spousal Abuse Against Women and Its Consequences on Reproductive Health: A Study in the Urban Slums in Bangladesh

Objectives: Spousal violence is common and results in costly problems both for society and for the reproductive health of women. Despite the recognition that violence may be associated with serious consequences for women's reproductive health, our understanding of the relationship between the two remains limited. In this study, we assessed the association between spousal violence and women's reproductive health. Methods: Data from an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing socioeconomic, demographic, behavioral profiles, and spousal violence-related information was collected from 496 women. Subjects were chosen from eight randomly selected urban slums from four metropolitan cities. Results: Spousal violence was significantly higher amongst the group of less educated women who had been in several marriages; indicating that the social and behavioral traits of women act as catalysts for spousal violence. Abusive husbands also had been married several times and were more likely to be addicted to alcohol or drugs. This demonstrates that the behavioral traits of husbands were also responsible for spousal violence. Spousal violence injuries adversely affect the health and well-being of women. More than three-quarters of physically violated women suffered injuries as a result of this violence. About 50% of these injuries were minor and about 10% serious. Sexual violence adversely affected women's health; more than 80% of sexually violated women complained of pelvic pain, more than 50% reported reproductive tract infections, and more than 50% reported symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Abused women suffered from gynecological problems at the time of pregnancy significantly more than non-abused women (p<0.05) and abused women suffered from reproductive tract infections significantly more than non-abused women (p<0.01). Abusive husbands suffered from sexually transmitted diseases (STD) significantly more than non-abusive husbands (p<0.05). Abused women used contraception significantly less than non-abused women (p<0.01). Logistic regression analysis suggested that spousal violence was the most important contributing factor for reproductive health problems in women. Conclusions: The findings of this study may enhance our understanding of the impact of spousal violence against women and their reproductive health and therefore highlight the importance of spousal violence prevention measures. Increasing the awareness and understanding of the relationship between violence against women and reproductive health could be achieved if lawyers, researchers, clinicians, practitioners, and government workers from multiple disciplines and agencies worked together.

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This study was supported by the World Bank through the Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC), Bangladesh. The authors gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of all the staff of BMRC. This article was written when the first author was a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)'s post-doctoral fellowship program.

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Correspondence to Md. Abdus Salam.

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Salam, M.A., Alim, M.A. & Noguchi, T. Spousal Abuse Against Women and Its Consequences on Reproductive Health: A Study in the Urban Slums in Bangladesh. Matern Child Health J 10, 83–94 (2006).

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  • spousal violence
  • reproductive health
  • gynecological disorder
  • reproductive tract infection
  • sexually transmitted disease
  • urban slums
  • Bangladesh