Explaining the links Between Purdah Practice, Women’s Autonomy and Health Knowledge in India

Part of the Advances in Geographical and Environmental Sciences book series (AGES)


The practice of purdah (veil) is an instrument of secluding women from their home as well as public spaces which may lead to restriction on women’s physical mobility, control over their decisions and lower access over economic resources. This study has used recent round of the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) data, conducted during 2011–12, to depict the regional pattern of purdah practices across Indian states. This study reveals that the practice of purdah is highly prevalent in the north and north-western parts of the country, while the observance of purdah practice is limited/or forbidden in south and north-eastern (except Assam) region. This study examines the influence of purdah practice on women autonomy. Women autonomy comprises three indices such as women’s physical mobility index, household decision-making index and access to control over economic resources index. Furthermore, this study assesses the links between purdah practice, women autonomy and women’s health knowledge. Women's health knowledge index is composed of five sets of binary items: own health, male sterilization, child health and awareness of HIV/AIDS. Results from the binary logistic regression reveal that women’s purdah practice is determined by their place of residence, caste, religion, age, educational level and current working status. Women’s purdah practice is negatively associated with all three indices of women’s autonomy. Furthermore, ordinal logistic regression discloses that purdah practice has a negative impact on women’s health knowledge. Women’s physical mobility and control over financial resources have a positive influence on women’s health knowledge. However, women’s household decision-making has no significant association with health knowledge of women. The findings of this study suggest that changing social norms, increasing education and employment opportunities could improve the health knowledge of women. Moreover, enhancing women's status in the society could make positive influence on women's health status.


Purdah Physical mobility Household decision-making Access to economic resources Health knowledge 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social SciencesJawaharlal Nehru UniversityNew DelhiIndia

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