Kerala’s urban population tends to have higher incidence of domestic violence and underreporting

Demonstrator holds placards during a protest in New DelhiExcerpts from the Policy Research Working Paper “Underreporting of Gender-Based Violence in Kerala, India An Application of the List Randomization Method”*, by George Joseph, Syed Usman Javaid, Luis Alberto Andres, Gnanaraj Chellaraj, Jennifer L. Solotaroff and S. Irudaya Rajan, published by World Bank Group, South Asia Region (April 2017)

The National Family Health Survey of India (2005-06) finds that the percentage of ever-married women who have experienced physical violence at the hands of their husbands in Kerala is 15.3 percent, compared to 35.1 percent for India as a whole (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 2005-06). Kerala is an interesting case for analyzing the prevalence of violence against women and girls in that it performs better than other Indian states on a host of human development indicators for women. It has a favorable female sex ratio6 of 1,058 females to 1,000 males compared to India’s 933, a high female literacy rate of 92.1 percent compared to India’s 65.5 percent, and a high female life expectancy rate of 77 years compared to the national 67.7 years.

At the same time, economic impoverishment, malnourishment, low political participation rates, and low labor force participation rates are prevalent among women in Kerala, although the situation is much better in the state regarding these indicators than in the rest of India. In addition, more households in Kerala have migrants abroad compared with any other state in the country.

We use the List Randomization method, discussed in detail in this section, to estimate both the incidence and the extent of underreporting of domestic violence and physical harassment on private and public buses in Kerala. The Kerala Migration Survey (KMS) 2014 was the sixth in the series of an ongoing migration monitoring studies conducted by the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum.

The total sample size in KMS 2014 was 14,575 households, including 10,000 new households and 4,575 households which were interviewed in the previous round in 2010. Questions about gender-based violence (GBV) and attitudes on gender relevant issues were also added to the household questionnaire of the KMS 2014. To implement the list randomization technique, we divided the sample of households into treatment and control groups so that, of all sampled households in each primary sampling unit, every alternative household was classified as a treatment household and the rest as the control households. The two groups were questioned on domestic violence and physical harassment on public/private buses using both the list randomization and the direct questioning techniques.

Question for the list randomization method:

Could you tell me how many of the following four statements you regard as true?

  1. At least one member of my household plans on opening a new business in the next five years
  2. The economic situation of my household has improved considerably over the past five years.
  3. In my household, all girls below the age of 14 go to or have gone to school.
  4. At least one woman member of my household has faced physical aggression from her husband anytime during her life.

The following question was asked for the list randomization method:

Could you tell me how many of the following four statements you regard as true?

  1. At least one member of my household uses public/private buses for transportation every day.
  2. The number of people using public/ private buses has increased in my locality in the last two years.
  3. Road accidents have become less in my area in the last two years.
  4. At least one woman/girl in my household has faced physical harassment while travelling on public/private buses during the past year.

The results for the overall analysis through list randomization suggests that about 15 percent of households have women who suffer from violence perpetrated by their husbands during their lifetime, whereas only 1 percent of households have women who suffer from physical harassment while using either public or private buses during the preceding year. This incidence when measured through direct questioning is 5.6 percent for the former and 2.6 percent for the latter. The rate of underreporting, which is the difference between incidences measured through list randomization vs. direct questioning, is 9.39 percentage points for domestic violence. For physical harassment while using public/private buses, on the other hand, the analysis suggests over-reporting of 1.79 percentage points.

The results  show that when compared to rural population, urban population tends to have higher incidence of domestic violence as well as higher levels of underreporting. In the case of domestic violence, list randomization shows a rate of incidence of 12 percent of lifetime violence among women in rural households, while this rate is 19 percent for urban households; both are significant at the one-percent level. Further, the difference between estimates of direct questioning and randomized listing technique (11.6 and 8 percentage points respectively for urban and rural households) shows that urban residents are typically more likely to underreport than rural residents.

Meanwhile, in the case of physical harassment on public/private buses, the difference in incidence is slightly higher in rural households when compared to urban households. However, the results for prevalence of this form of violence using list randomization for urban households are statistically insignificant. For rural areas, however, the extent of underreporting is about 3 percentage points for physical harassment on public or private buses.

Poorer households, as measured by those with red ration cards, report slightly more instances of domestic violence compared to relatively non-poor households. Furthermore, the rate of underreporting is higher among poorer households when compared to their less poor counterparts for domestic violence. These patterns continued to exist when we divide the groups further into sub-groups for poverty within rural and urban households.

Poorer households report a slightly higher incidence of domestic violence in both rural and urban settings. Moreover, poorer households have higher instances of underreporting compared to non-poor households, in both urban and rural areas for this form of violence. The highest incidence as well as underreporting of violence is among poor urban households for reporting on domestic violence. For physical harassment on buses, the incidence of underreporting is the highest for non-poor rural households, but this rate of underreporting is much smaller compared to that of domestic violence. In general, underreporting of physical harassment on public/private buses is much lower for all categories.

However, for physical harassment on buses, the only statistically significant result is the estimation of incidence using list randomization for rural households with a blue ration card (non-poor) at 9 percent with a corresponding underreporting value of 7 percentage points. In addition, results suggest that those households who owned their own homes have a higher level of incidence and higher rate of underreporting for domestic violence compared to those that did not own their homes.

As expected, underreporting is higher among female respondents compared to males for domestic violence. This is true for both rural and urban areas. When compared by locality, contrary to expectations, rural females and males tend to have lower rates of underreporting compared to urban females and males, respectively, with the difference particularly large for males: 11 vs. 3 percentage points for urban vs. rural males respectively.

The results for list randomization for physical harassment on buses are not statistically significant. Employed respondents have lower rates of underreporting compared to unemployed respondents for domestic violence, while the difference is negligible for physical harassment on public/private buses and results for list randomization are statistically insignificant. Breaking down this finding by gender, employed females have marginally higher rates of underreporting compared to employed males for both domestic violence and physical harassment on public/private buses.

In terms of age cohorts, respondents from the youngest (30 years and younger) and oldest age cohorts (50 and over) have higher rates of underreporting for domestic violence compared to those of the middle cohort (Between 30 and 49 years). The youngest cohort has the highest rate of underreporting. For physical harassment on public/private buses, the rate of underreporting is negligible and insignificant in most cases.

Education can potentially help people to overcome social norms and taboos concerning modesty, thus reducing the hesitation to report sensitive issues. Quite surprisingly, underreporting in the case of domestic violence tends to be highest among the professionally educated who typically hold medical, engineering, or management degrees, followed by the least educated group with an educational attainment of secondary school and below.

In particular, both women and men with professional degrees have the highest rate of underreporting, with men having at least a marginally higher rate of underreporting than women in this category. For the least educated group with educational attainment of secondary school and below, female respondents far exceed their male counterparts in terms of underreporting domestic violence. This is also true for the education category of high school and diploma.

There is no clear pattern in the case of physical harassment on public or private buses, but males with professional degrees have the highest rate of underreporting. In terms of religion, respondents who identified themselves as Hindus have the highest rates of underreporting followed by Muslims and then Christians for domestic violence. Females have higher rates of underreporting of domestic violence compared to males for all religions, with the highest underreporting rates for Hindu women respondents followed by Muslim and Christian female respondents respectively. There is no clear pattern regarding this for physical harassment on public or private buses.

*Download full paper HERE

 

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