Wife beating and the link with poor sexual health and risk behavior among men in urban slums in India

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Recent research evidence on domestic and sexual violence have linked violence with increased risk of acquiring HIV and adverse health in women. This paper explores the link between wife abuse and different aspects of male sexual health using data from 2 surveys among 1279 married men and 553 married women in a Mumbai slum community. Three categories of sexual health problems were considered: symptoms indicative of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), performance related problems and the prevalent South Asian semen anxiety. Ten percent of both men and women reported wife beating in the last year. The severity of abuse reported by women is clearly correlated with the prevalence of all three categories of the husband's sexual problems as perceived by the wife. Among perpetrators of abuse we show the expected correlation of reported STI symptoms, extramarital sex and domestic violence. However, the semen-related problems are also associated with increased risk behaviour. Performance related problems are shown to be strongly associated with domestic violence among perpetrators. Other important correlates of abuse are related to personal history. Both perpetrators of violence and beaten women were more likely to come from families with a history of abuse. Having in-laws who were dissatisfied with the dowry increased the likelihood of experiencing physical abuse by nearly 4 times. Husbands and wife's sexual and reproductive health are clearly related in complex ways, and pathways not limited to sexual risk behaviour and transmission of STIs only. Wife beating is an important factor affecting women's health, and importantly linked with the sexual fears and inadequacies in men.