Introduction Sexual coercion by husbands within marriage, ‘marital rape’, is till date a shadowy subject in India. Studies are limited on forced sex within marriage in Indian context where early marriage is common, sex that may not be perceived as forced but that is unwanted and awareness on sexual and reproductive matters is limited among women, making them increasingly vulnerable to innumerable sexual health problems.
The objective of the present study was to find out the extent of forced sex, explore the confounding factors and assess men’s attitude towards sex within marriage.
Methods A sample of 7812 young married men (15–29 years) from Youth in India: Situation and Needs Study (2006–07) was analysed. Bi-variate and multivariate techniques were applied.
Results 15% of married men forced their wives to have sex ever in life and 45% did so in last one year. Around 19% justified wife beating if wife refuses to have sex. The perpetrators mostly belonged to rural areas, lower economic background and were illiterate. Sexual coercion was most prevalent in arranged marriages and among men who were unhappy in marriage. Poor spousal communication, acceptance of husbands’ authoritarian role and wife beating norms for denial of sex were significantly associated (p<0.001) with forced sex. Exposure to pornographic materials and regular consumption of alcohol increased the risk of sexual coercion significantly. Men who had witnessed parental violence were 2 times more likely (p<0.001) to use force for sex. Those who had experienced gender biassed socialisation and held non-egalitarian gender role attitude were 1.4 times more likely to justify wife beating if wife denies to have sex.
Conclusion Non-equitable gender attitude in men and their belief that a wife has no right to contradict her husband’s wish to have sex are the most important risk factors for sexual coercion in marriages in India. Proper orientation on gender issues, sexual
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