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Married Women Living with Disabilities in Nepal Experience More Intimate Partner Violence

February 25, 2019   /   by Jiaxi Zhang

woman in Nepal sitting on HillNearly 18% of people residing in low-income countries live with some form of disability. People living with disability face more challenges in obtaining the same education, income, social status, and health services in comparison to their counterparts who don’t live with disabilities. A new study led by researchers in George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) also found that married women living with disabilities in Nepal are more likely to report experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) than women without disabilities.

Dr. Jhumka Gupta, assistant professor of global and community health, worked with adjunct professor Courtney Harris and colleagues at Rollins School of Public Health, University of Pennsylvania, University College of London, and Equal Access International to investigate how disability status, and severity of impairment relate to women’s vulnerability to experiencing IPV, in-law perpetrated violence, and social support. Their findings, published in BMJ Global Health, suggest that the levels of IPV in various forms increase with the extent of women’s disabilities. In this study, women with the most severe forms of disability experienced the highest levels of IPV compared to women with some or no impairment.

Gupta explained, “Lack of inclusive services for women with disabilities may create higher degrees of dependency on male partners. Such dependence, along with broader social inequities, acceptance of IPV, and stigma against disability status may explain these observations.”

The study analyzed baseline data from “Change Starts at Home: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial of a Media and Community Engagement Behavior Change Strategy to Prevent IPV in Nepal.” Surveys were conducted with 1,800 married women in three districts in Western and Central Nepal.

The research team also found that, compared to women without disabilities, women living with disabilities were also more likely to report experiencing violence from family members of their husbands (i.e., in-laws). Women with the most severe forms of impairment also reported the highest frequency of such violence.

“These findings underscore that women living with disabilities are highly vulnerable to IPV and other forms of gender-based violence.” stated Gupta. “Thus, it is critical that the needs of women living with disabilities should be integrated into ongoing intimate partner violence prevention and intervention work in low-income countries. This includes assuring accessibility, addressing gender inequity, and reducing social stigma against disability.”

* This study is an output from the What Works to Prevent Violence: A Global Programme, which is funded by the UK Aid from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the benefit of low-income and middle-income countries. The grant number is P06254.

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George Mason University is Virginia's largest and most diverse public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 37,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. For more information, visit https://www2.gmu.edu/.

About the College of Health and Human Services

George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) prepares students to become leaders and shape the public’s health through academic excellence, professional service, and innovative practice and research initiatives. CHHS enrolls 1,917 undergraduate students and 950 graduate students in its nationally-recognized offerings, including: 5 undergraduate degrees, 12 graduate degrees, and 11 certificate programs. CHHS is moving toward the goal of becoming a global college of public health in the near future. For more information, visit https://chhs.gmu.edu/.

Related people: Jhumka Gupta, ScD
Topics: Research
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